This is Chris Wilder's world and we are all simply living in it.
With yesterday's breaking news that UEFA had reached a verdict on Manchester City's dubious financial dealings, the reigning Premier League champions were issued an unprecedented punishment for breaking the organisation's Financial Fair Play Regulations between 2012 and 2016, receiving a two-year ban from all European competitions and an (admittedly quite minor) fine of €30,000,000.
Now I don't claim to know how UEFA works, but I know if I was in charge of the organisation I would be doing one thing, and one thing only: getting Brammall Lane to the Champions League. It's only fair that the Premier League doesn't suffer the loss of one of its four UCL spots. Why? Because I said so. The only possible choice is to disregard Manchester City from European qualification and to hand whatever team finishes the season in fifth a *glorious* play-off opportunity to qualify for Europe's elite footballing competition.
Ok, so. Fifth place gets Champions League. Well, who's in fifth place right now, you say? I'll tell you who. Sheffield. Fucking. United. Stop the season right now, I *need* this to happen. I want to see Dean Henderson and Jan Oblak share the pitch. John Egan and Giorgio Chiellini. Billy Sharp and Kylian Mbappe. Imagine the scenes. The Champions League theme tune reverberating around a ground that was playing Championship football less than a year ago. This is Football Manager turned reality. "Is this the real life? Is this just McBurnie?"
Chris Wilder, you are a giant amongst men. You deserve a lifetime contract. You deserve a knighthood. I want nothing more than to see The Blades unconquerable 3-5-2 playing tiki-taka at the Camp Nou. I want it so badly, and I think everyone does. The question we should ask is, is it possible?
Shades of Leicester City's title winning season in 2015/16 are all over Sheffield's phenomenal year, but there's still a long way to go before we can get excited about John Lundstram's eventual Ballon D'or. There is no guarantee that a fifth place finish in the league this year will equate to a place in the UEFA Champions League, but even if ending the season in the top five does mean top level European football, Sheffield United will have their work cut out for them in trying to get it. The Blades currently sit two points clear of sixth placed Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs have a game in hand), with Wolves and Everton one point below. Traditional 'big six' sides Manchester United and Arsenal trail Sheffield by four and eight points, respectively, but with both having a game in hand over The Blades.
There will be no room for error if Sheffield United are to do the unthinkable and fight off the competition for a chance at top level European football, but qualification for the Europa League looks very much on, at minimum. If Chris Wilder's defiant red and white warriors can continue their surprisingly consistent quality for the final twelve games of the season, then do not count them out of the race for the Champions League. We should all be praying this happens. Just imagine Lionel Messi having to find his way around Sheffield City Centre. Simply beautiful.
Ben Wheadon is editor and founder of Slow Motion Panic Masters. He is a Welsh musician and English Literature student at King's College, London and he should be writing a dissertation instead of creating a blog.
Michael Regan began work as a trainee sports photographer in January 1998. He has covered five World Cups, six European Championships and five Wimbledon Tennis Championships. His work is outstanding and we are extremely grateful for his permission to use his exceptional photography here on SMPM. Find him at @michaelregan on Instagram and Twitter.
Thanks for reading! Slow Motion Panic Masters is a music, arts and culture blog created and edited by Ben Wheadon, a literature student and musician based in London, England.