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Why Manchester United's new season may start on July 25 in Europa League qualifying

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Manchester United could be back in competitive action in barely two months
Image: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Manchester United could be back in competitive action in barely two months

Manchester United's 2019/20 may begin three weeks before their Premier League rivals - so when does everyone everyone start?

Manchester United's campaign may start three weeks before their Premier League rivals next season after finishing sixth.

United will be praying for usual rivals Manchester City on Saturday when they take on Watford in the FA Cup final, because only a City win will stop the Red Devils playing their first competitive game of 2019/20 on July 25.

If Watford can cause a shock at Wembley, it will leave United in the final, lowest European qualification place for English teams - currently occupied by Wolves, who will drop out of the competition altogether.

Gerard Deulofeu celebrates scoring for Watford against Wolves in the FA Cup semi-final
Image: Gerard Deulofeu's double took Watford to their first FA Cup final in 35 years

United would then enter the Europa League at the second qualifying round stage, where they will be seeded and face a favourable draw, and could face the likes of Irish side Shamrock Rovers or Tobol, who finished third in the Kazakhstan top flight.

But if Manchester City do lift the cup, things will be a little easier for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side. Clear as mud? Good. Let's clear it up with the state of play for our Premier League sides...

Who starts when?

Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, and Tottenham have already qualified for the group stages of the Champions League, and will play their first games in the group stages on 17-18 September.

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Mauricio Pochettino says Tottenham must focus all their energy on creating history
Image: Mauricio Pochettino led Tottenham to Champions League qualification on the final day of the season

They could be joined by Arsenal if they win the Europa League final on May 29.

The other teams to have qualified for the group stages so far are: Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Napoli, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Red Bull Leipzig, PSG, Zenit St Petersburg, and Red Bull Salzburg.

If Arsenal are beaten in Baku and miss out on the Champions League, they will begin their Europa League campaign in the group stages on September 19.

Alexandre Lacazette celebrates scoring Arsenal's second goal vs Valencia in Europa League semi-final second leg
Image: Alexandre Lacazette scored in both legs as Arsenal reached the Europa League final

They would be joined there by Manchester United, and one of Watford or seventh-placed Wolves, dependent on the winner of FA Cup.

If Watford win the FA Cup, they will enter at the group stages like Arsenal, with Manchester United plunged into the second qualifying round in July. Wolves would be left empty-handed.

But if Manchester City triumph, United will also start their European campaign in the group stages in September, with Wolves entering in the qualifying stages.

Leander Dendoncker celebrates after scoring for Wolves vs Fulham
Image: Wolves will only enter Europa League qualifying if Manchester City win the FA Cup this weekend

If United or Wolves are to then reach the Europa League groups, they will need to play six games to even reach that stage.

The return leg of the second qualifying round is on August 1, before a double header in the third qualifying round on August 8 and 15, and another in the play-off round on August 22 and 29.

Fair play?

Following a UEFA Executive Committee decision in December 2014, as of the 2015/16 season, Fair Play no longer earns clubs a route into the Europa League.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 16:  James Tomkins of West Ham celebrates after his goal during the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round (first leg) match bet
Image: West Ham were the last Premier League club to be granted a place into the Europa League courtesy of Fair Play in 2015/16

Regardless of who wins the Premier League, Champions League, Europa League, FA Cup, or League Cup, England can only have seven clubs representing them across the two European competitions.

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