Any theme park worth its salt has, at one time or another, had one of those free-falling elevator rides among its attractions. The type that raise you to great heights before sending you plummeting back down to earth at a stomach-turning rate.
While the win over Crystal Palace didn’t exactly propel Manchester United to Everest altitude, the follow-up performance in defeat to Olympiacos was the moment the lift’s cable snapped, only without the exhilarating teenage screams.
11 points away from red-hot Liverpool in the race to finish in the top four, United find themselves as 11/1 shots to catch their rivals. Whether wryly or not, winning the Champions League was widely considered to be their last chance at retaining their status in the competition.
Needing at least a 3-0 win (a result they’ve recorded once all season) to make good on their 2/1 odds to qualify for the next round after an abject performance in Greece, even that now looks a target beyond their reach.
While the Europa League would naturally be the next option should Champions League football escape them next season, sliding outside of that competition’s qualification bracket wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing for the Old Trafford club.
United are 4/11 to finish in the top six, which suggests a stint in Europe’s second-tier is approaching but, while finishing seventh or lower will surely cause outrage among the United faithful, they only need to look at their Merseyside rivals for inspiration as to what avoiding it could lead to.
Without the distraction of the Europa League, Liverpool are looking good for a return to the competition they won in 2005 at 1/6, leading the Premier League’s scoring charts in the process.
Serie A’s Juventus are another example of the glory that can come from avoiding European competition, going through the 2011/12 season unbeaten having finished seventh the season prior.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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