If you keep your eyes open, opportunities can occur from the strangest of circumstances.
On Sunday May 15th, 2016 we faced an interesting final day in the English Premiership season. The title and relegation battles had already been settled. But there was still the qualification for European competition to decide.
Most of the focus was on Man City, Man Utd, West Ham, Southampton and Liverpool. Some could qualify for Champions league football, some for Europa league football.
You also had the issue of qualification. Some places in these competition allowed teams to qualify straight for the knock-out stages. Others meant teams had to go through a qualification process to get there.
Then suddenly, the end of season choreography ground to a halt when a security training device was accidentally left at Old Trafford and Man Utd’s match was abandoned.
All matches are supposed to be played at the same time on the last day of the season to ensure nobody has the knowledge of what the teams have done. But now Man Utd know exactly what they have to do.
Curiously though, on this occasion, it hasn’t helped.
Man Utd play in the FA Cup this weekend and now have to play on Tuesday, but know that a loss wouldn’t be a disaster and that fourth place is out of reach.
My instinct on knowing this was to lay Man Utd as soon as I could, in the anticipation that they would field a weakened team. The price responded in kind. But this morning there is some discussion around exactly what team they will play. Scheduling at the start of next season, driven by commercial interests, gives them an incentive to ensure a good finish. So that may weigh on the board’s mind, but Van Gaal appears to be the sort of manager that doesn’t care what the board think. Especially as he may not be there next season!
That said Palace were not exactly on fire on Sunday, so it’s likely that Man Utd will win the FA Cup anyhow and make tonight’s game a null decision. But we are now in the guessing game of whether Van Gaal risks the FA Cup or European football.
Which will it be? We will find out at 19:00 this evening when the team sheet is announced. Could be fun!