Champions League spots give Manchester United and Chelsea launchpad

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But while Leicester have slipped out of those top-four places – finally dropping to fifth on Wednesday after spending 30 matchdays in the Champions League spots – Manchester United’s relentless rise in 2020 took them all the way up to third place.

Champions League qualification felt like a distant prospect for United in January, when a 2-0 loss at home to Burnley left them six points behind fourth-placed Chelsea and put Ole Gunnar Solskjaer under pressure.

But the turnaround is complete. Since that miserable evening at Old Trafford, Manchester United have gone 14 Premier League games unbeaten, taking 32 points from a possible 42 and changing the complexion of their season. They finish best of the rest behind Liverpool and Manchester City, ahead of Chelsea on goal difference.

However in contrast to Leicester and Manchester United, the story of Chelsea’s league position has not been one of slide or rise but of a consistent run in those crucial top-four positions – even if ‘consistent’ is not a word to describe their actual performances on the pitch.

There have been slip-ups and big defeats which have underlined the major work required to transform Chelsea back into title contenders. Wayward form and repeated errors in defence have highlighted the need for players from outside of the club to be added to what they already have.

Now, with Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech signed and their Champions League status set to make acquisitions of the required defensive personnel easier, Chelsea have a strong platform to kick on again. The same goes for Manchester United. With Lampard, Solskjaer and their squads another season older, wiser and developed there will be less sympathy if mistakes are repeated and more scrutiny on their progress back to the top.

But by making the cut and ensuring they are competing in Europe’s elite club competition this season they have a launchpad to kick on again.

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