Manchester United’s potential path into the group stages of the UEFA Champions League is beginning to look a lot clearer as the domestic campaigns across Europe have come to a close.
But that doesn’t mean it will be easy.
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After finishing fourth in the 2014-15 Premier League standings, Louis van Gaal’s side must go through a home and away playoff to seal their spot in the 2015-16 group stages of the UCL.
This is how the playoff round will work for next season. The third qualifying round will have 15 games and the winner of those two-legged ties will advance to the playoff round with teams split into the “Champions Route” and “League Route” in terms of how they qualified for the UCL. United will be in the “League Route” section of the draw as they qualified via their league position and not by being domestic champions as the “Champions Route” teams did.
United, Valencia and Leverkusen will be the seeded teams in the playoff round, while Ajax and Shakhtar will also be top seeds if they make it through from the third qualifying round. If they don’t make it, CSKA and Sporting Lisbon will be the other top seeds.
Still with me? The ties for the UCL playoff round will be played on 18-19 and 25-26 of August and whoever United are paired against it is likely to be an extremely tough test for the Red Devils. A summer of heavy spending is expected at Old Trafford to give LVG the best possible chance of succeeding in the UCL next season but when it comes down to it, the 180 minutes of play during the UCL playoff round are huge. Especially after United missed out on European qualification altogether following the disastrous 2013-14 season under David Moyes.
Here’s a list of the 10 teams United could face in the huge home and away ties which will decide their participation in the UCL group stage in 2015-16.
Potential opponents for United