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Ole counting cost of Champions League absence

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Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Photo: Action Images via Reuters

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Photo: Action Images via Reuters

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Photo: Action Images via Reuters

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer does not particularly want to play in the Europa League but he does not wish to be eliminated from it either.

The prize which success in the competition would bring is too great for his club and himself personally. And whether he prioritises domestic or European affairs between now and May, the end goal is the same: a return to the Champions League.

"The longer you are out of it, the more you'll suffer," Solskjaer said ahead of Club Brugge's visit to Old Trafford.

He was speaking in reference to Manchester United's latest financial results, which were published on Tuesday.

More than anything else, the second-quarter figures showed the impact that sitting away from the top table for a year can have, even at a club of the size and financial power of United.

The club's broadcasting revenues dropped by more than a third - from £103.7m to £64.7m. This was anticipated by United as five of last season's six Champions League group stage games fell during the period concerned, and it was slightly offset by encouraging gains in commercial revenue, but it is a reminder of how expensive a single year of failure can be to clubs accustomed to earning the riches at the top of the European game.

Failure to secure a top-four Premier League finish last term also affected match day revenues, which dropped by £5.9m, and the bottom line is that United are not performing as well financially today as they were 12 months ago.

Total revenues across the financial year are still expected to drop by as much as £67m. By Tuesday's close of play on the New York Stock Exchange, the club's share price had fallen by 5 per cent. Spending a second consecutive year outside the Champions League would be even more costly.

The good news is that there is more than one pathway back to the top table. United's prospects of qualifying through the Premier League have been enhanced by recent back-to-back victories over Chelsea and Watford.

Solskjaer's side are now only three points away from fourth-place.

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And, of course, Manchester City's two-year ban from Uefa competitions has provisionally brought fifth into play. But this back-door route is not certain to stay open.

All of which makes tonight's low-key last-32 second leg important. United remain among the favourites to win the Europa League, even after the Champions League drop-outs entered the draw and last week's lukewarm performance in Bruges. Anthony Martial's away goal gives Solskjaer every chance of a place in Friday's last-16 draw and Brugge are missing three of their most important players, not least last week's goalscorer Emanuel Dennis. United are expected to progress and should do so, moving within six games of the final in Gdansk.

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