As the dust settles on Liverpool's humiliation of Manchester United at Old Trafford, fans begin to turn their attentions to the nine remaining games of the season and where their side will ultimately finish the campaign.
For Liverpool, their mission is seemingly complete—Champions League qualification now looking very likely, nine points ahead of Tottenham. It's quite incredible that Brendan Rodgers' side have put themselves into such a strong position when many felt before the campaign started that they'd struggle to finish inside the top four.
Meanwhile, for David Moyes' Manchester United, their feint hopes of sneaking into the top four now look all but gone. They sit seventh, 12 points from fourth place rivals Manchester City.
Europa League Qualification
Fifth place automatically qualifies for the Europa League and provided Manchester City finish inside the top four, their League Cup victory means that sixth place too will qualify for the competition.
In all honesty, it's difficult to see any of the sides currently occupying the top four positions dropping out, leaving Tottenham, Everton and United in a "battle" for fifth and sixth.
However, is it a battle you really want your side to win?
Effects of Europa League
The knock-on effect of being in Europe's second-rate competition is huge. As is the effect of not being in European competition.
Take Liverpool and Tottenham this season as the prime examples.
Liverpool are rejuvenated in the Premier League, in part due to having no European distractions—which means more focus on the league and having a smaller squad to manage and thus more time to coach individuals. Hence, incredible improvement individually and collectively.
Meanwhile, Tottenham have lost nine games this campaign—seven of which occurred immediately following Europa League action on the Thursday before. It isn't a coincidence.
Similarly, this season's other Europa League participants, Swansea and Wigan, have struggled too. Wigan are resurgent in the Championship now they're out of the competition.
All three of those clubs have sacked their manager this campaign.
It had the same effect on Newcastle last season, and Liverpool too in Rodgers' first campaign.
Indeed, the website Off The Post looked at teams who've qualified for the Europa League and where they finished in the Premier League the following season. Only four out of 12 teams finished higher the following season—eight finished lower the season they were in the competition.
Therefore, Liverpool—and other European competitors—will be wise to hope that Manchester United do achieve Europa League qualification as, seemingly, they will be far less of a threat next season due to the effects of the competition.
Without a doubt, United would be much more of a threat without Europa League involvement, thus able to focus purely on getting back into the top four.
Qualification for Europe will also mean more chance of Moyes being given a stay of execution at Old Trafford. Watching him having to manage the effects of that competition, alongside attempting to get back among the top four would be a wonderful thing to watch.
The financial impact of United not being among Europe's elite in the Champions League will be vast regardless of whether they get into the Europa League—which pales in comparison.
According to The Daily Mail: "£661 million was divided between the 32 teams who made last season's Champions League group stage, just £132m was paid out to Europa League clubs."
BBC Sport's David Bond explained earlier this year how Man United's current budget is based on finishing third in the Premier League and reaching the quarter-finals of all cup competitions—including the Champions League.
Being in the Europa League would also mean that United would be required to meet UEFA's Financial Fair Play criteria, and thus not be able to splash large sums of cash on players to remedy their problems. Such as spending £65 million plus on two midfielders...
Liverpool fans know all too well the impact of not being among Europe's elite when it comes to attracting players. See last summer when Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Diego Costa and Willian all opted to move to or remain at Champions League-participating sides.
Players do not sign for clubs for the allure of the Europa League, that is for certain. Well, not unless you want to sign David Ngog.
If United fans think Toni Kroos is going to leave the current German and European champions to join a side who finished outside of the Champions League, they are in for a rude awakening.
Oh, and it would be nice to sing "Thursday nights, Channel 5" at Old Trafford next season.