LONDON, May 16 (Xinhua) — This weekend’s FA Cup final between Manchester City and Watford could see City claim a historic Premier League, League Cup and FA Cup treble, and cement Pep Guardiola’s reputation as one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game. However, viewers on the other side of Manchester will also be keeping a close eye on a game which could have an important effect on Manchester United’s 2019/20 season.
United finished a disappointing season sixth in the 2018/19 Premier League, and as things currently stand they will qualify directly for the group stage of the Europa League, which kicks off on September 19th.
However, if Watford pull off a surprise and defeat City at Wembley, that would change everything, with Watford qualifying directly for the group stage of the Europa League and condemning Manchester United to play three qualifying rounds.
The first of those rounds kicks off on July 25, over a fortnight before the 2019/20 Premier League season is due to start, and would mean Manchester United’s players having shorter summer holidays and the club needing to reorganize their summer schedule.
United currently have five scheduled pre-season friendly games, the first of which is against Australian side Perth Glory in Perth on July 13, four days before they face Leeds United in the same city on July 17.
The Red Devils then take their summer tour to Singapore to face Inter Milan on July 20, before heading to Shanghai to play Tottenham Hotspur at the Hongkou Stadium on July 25, followed by a final friendly game against AC Milan in Cardiff on August 3.
However, if United have to play in the Europa League qualifying rounds, their first match would clash with their Shanghai tie against Tottenham, meaning something would have to give.
But changes to United’s summer calendar could be the least of the club’s worries, despite the loss in commercial revenue.
This season has been a disaster for the club and wholesale changes to the squad are expected.
Ander Herrera has already announced he is leaving on a free transfer, and will be joined by Juan Mata, Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian, while other players such as Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku, Nemanja Matic, Andreas Pereira, Alexis Sanchez could also leave in a much-needed clearout.
The problem is that if United begin playing competitive matches on July 25, that doesn’t leave much time to finish their summer transfer business.
Not only does the club need to refresh its first team squad, but a large turnover of players means coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will need time for team-building – time he looks unlikely to get, especially if the season kicks off in July.
After a dreadful end to this season, the last thing the club and coach need is a poor start to the next one, so bearing that in mind, it may be better to swallow local pride and hope that Manchester City win the FA Cup so they can forget about Europe until September.