COVID-19 has disrupted life and football all over the world in recent weeks, with the FA suspending the Premier League until Friday 3 April 2020 at the earliest.
In all likely scenarios, the league will be postponed beyond that date, and it wouldn’t surprise many people if the 2019-20 season was declared void.
Manchester United had been on an excellent run before the disruption – narrowing the gap on Chelsea and Champions League qualification down to three points, progressing to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, and virtually qualifying for the last eight of the Europa League with a 5-0 first leg win away to LASK.
Our second leg versus the Austrian Bundesliga leaders had been due to be played this week but that’s certainly not happening now. One can only hope it goes ahead at some point. And should the season resume, you can buy Manchester United tickets for Old Trafford home matches here. However, the serious health issues worldwide could see the entire 2019-20 season declared null and void. We should find out in the coming weeks what the situation is. The Premier League chiefs are set to meet as early as this Thursday for a discussion.
Prior to that, here are the possible scenarios for the remainder of the season:
The season ends later than normal after delays
There are nine Premier League games of the season left. If the season were to resume in April, May or even June, it would still be possible to complete with a delay to the start of the 2020-21 campaign.
The FA Cup is at the quarter-final stage so this would only mean a maximum of three more games for two sides. All of the final eight teams are in the Premier League. We’re due to play away to Norwich City.
There’s a maximum of six more games in the Europa League for us. The second leg of the LASK tie, quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final itself. The FA won’t have a say in what happens to this competition, but if the season were to continue in April or May there would be little reason for UEFA to void the current campaign. The final is set to take place in Gdansk, Poland, but tickets would be available to fans of the two finalists at SeatPick, regardless of when the final takes place. There are also proposals to reduce the two-legged knockout games to one-leg matches and that will definitely help teams play a compressed schedule.
All of this would likely mean a Euro 2020 postponement. But if the domestic seasons can be completed before August or September, then the international tournament can simply be delayed 12 months and take place next summer instead.
The off-season would need to be trimmed down to a month or six weeks to start the 2021-22 campaign and have that completed before the summer tournament. It may require a shorter campaign – scrapping the EFL Cup would surely be on the top of the chop list, potentially the FA Cup too. The Champions League and Europa Leagues may even be required to take a hit on the group stages.
The season is declared complete
An unlikely scenario as the Premier League themselves say a season is only complete when each side has played each other twice. Though it’s possible an exception could be made given the circumstances.
Should that happen, Leicester City, Manchester City and Chelsea would join Liverpool in next season’s Champions League, whilst we’d need to win the Europa League if we want to join them. Of course, there’s that matter of City’s possible ban, which could still allow us in through the backdoor if stayed in 5th, but that ban as every chance of being reduced or suspended as well.
This would seem harsh on Manchester United given our good form in recent months, compared to Chelsea and Leicester dropping off since the turn of the year.
It would be even harsher on the current bottom three if they were to be relegated – Bournemouth themselves are only in the relegation zone by a single goal! And who would be the third team promoted from the Championship?
Too many lawsuits would ensue if this were to happen, so it seems an unlikely scenario. However, given Liverpool’s large lead at the top of the table, don’t be surprised if the FA bottles it and declares them 2019-20 Premier League champions.
The season is declared null and void
West Ham United CEO Karren Brady says the Premier League and EFL are doing all they can to complete the current campaign, but if it’s not possible then the season be declared null and void.
Presumably this would mean 2020-21 starts as if the 2018-19 season had just finished – the Premier League starts on zero points, Liverpool have never won the title and we’re in the Europa League.
Karren Brady wouldn’t be the only one voting for this option – you can imagine the majority of the Premier League will want this result. Virtually every team bar the current top four you’d think.
This would give the likes of Norwich City and Aston Villa a chance to start over and have a better chance of avoiding relegation, whilst Mikel Arteta gets to start the season from scratch as Arsenal manager.
It’s going to be a unique and interesting couple of months to say the least. Hopefully Manchester United and co have a better idea of what’s going to happen in the coming days or weeks.