It may not have been vintage Manchester United for the majority of the campaign but a narrow victory over Crystal Palace last weekend saw them all but guarantee a return to the Champions League.
After Liverpool could only manage a draw with Chelsea, United’s far superior goal difference means it is now almost impossible for their fierce rivals to overtake them in the table.
For a club the size of United, it was a necessity that they returned to Europe’s elite, meaning it was imperative over all else that Louis van Gaal guided them to that aim in his first season in charge of the Red Devils.
Europe’s elite club competition just wasn’t the same without United. In many ways they are England’s biggest club side and have appeared in three finals in the last decade.
The Champions League is in the club’s blueprint. They have given us several amazing moments over the years, from the unforgettable last minute turnaround against Bayern Munich in 1999 to the penalty shootout victory in the only ever all-English final in 2008.
They will be hoping to put a squad together this season to not only challenge for the Premier League title next year, but secretly van Gaal will have one eye on success on the European stage for his new-look United squad.
A year out of the competition will have hurt and they will want to make the most of this opportunity to showcase their abilities in the biggest competition of them all.
There have been several signs in recent weeks that the players are starting to pick up van Gaal’s style and utilise his ‘philosophy’ in important games. When United’s backs were against the wall in the race for the top four, they came good last month to all but secure their position.
The victories over Manchester City and Liverpool in particular were mightily impressive as they dominated the game for the majority. Perhaps this is a taster of what we might see in the future. Once Van Gaal fully implements his ideas across the whole club, United will be a major force once again.
Whilst they will not go into their return to the Champions League as one of the favourites for the competition, United will be major dark horses for the competition, given their past record and the amount they are willing to spend to get back into Europe’s elite.