After Manchester United lost to Stoke City 2-1 on Saturday, many fans and pundits wrote off their top four chances.
Indeed, with the immense competition throughout the Barclays Premier League table, it will be very hard for David Moyes’s side to finish inside the top four.
The Red Devils currently sit in seventh place, seven points behind fourth-placed Liverpool.
They are also now competing with the likes of Tottenham and Everton to finish in the hallowed Champions League places, with both aforementioned sides sitting above them in the table.
However, even if Manchester United do not finish in the top four, the predicted disaster is unlikely for several reasons.
Firstly, if they finish outside the top five, there will be no European football at all next season. This means that they will have a far less crowded fixture list than the rest of their competitors, meaning less chance of injury and fatigue.
This alone means that they will have an advantage over their fellow challengers for the title and the top four.
Additionally, the squad is set to be rebuilt and will therefore be far better than the side that won last year’s Premier League title under Sir Alex Ferguson.
With the £37m arrival of Juan Mata kicking off the revival, David Moyes has already said that the Spaniard will be the first of many.
Consequently, the prospect of United going into a downward spiral is very remote.
Perhaps most importantly, United’s commercial future is set to be sorted in the long term, with a new $1billion kit deal expected to be signed with Nike that will provide financial security for the next decade.
The Red Devils are one of the most globally supported teams in the world, and are incredibly powerful commercially and financially.
As a result, a lack of Champions League football for one season will not do as much harm as has been suggested; players will still want to come to United because of high wages and maximum exposure, amongst other reasons.
Finally, United’s decline this season has been likened to Liverpool’s slide out of the top four in the 2009/10 season.
However, Liverpool have never been as commercially powerful as United and their squad in that season was on the decline, with uncertainty over the club’s ownership and management resulting in a failure to rebuild the team.
By contrast, Manchester United have financial security, immense commercial strength around the globe, and a settled hierarchy that includes the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson and Bobby Charlton in the boardroom.
It therefore seems clear that if United do not finish inside the top four, they will still be able to compete amongst the best in the seasons to come.