Manchester United will be watching on in envy as Man City travel to face Real Madrid on Wednesday night.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer might insist his side's sole focus is on facing Club Brugge later on this week but it is no secret the Norwegian manager wishes his Thursday nights were vacant. A bad performance at Old Trafford against the Belgians, and they might be.

A recent revival in form has awakened dreams of Champions League football next season but the fact they are still viewed as dreams rather than targets by many is a wider issue in itself.

A successful run in the Europa League might reward United with a glamorous tie against Inter Milan or Roma in the weeks ahead, but in a fortnight which has seen the Premier League elite competing on the grandest stage of all, it must cut the United hierarchy deep.

Ed Woodward's quarterly call on Tuesday gave a stark reminder of a club which still sometimes parades digital growth as if it warrants real-life recognition, and while the online interaction might be industry leading, most fans couldn't really care less just how popular Odion Ighalo's shock move was on transfer deadline day.

Although the club's social media stats helped to promote a positive angle for a club still underperforming on the pitch, there is no hiding the concern in regards to falling revenue numbers.

United's announcement that broadcasting revenue is down by £39m, representative of 37% year-on-year, and match-day revenue is down 15% was a further warning to Solskjaer that a return to the Champions League surely has to be the benchmark.

Woodward again spoke fondly of the Norwegian manager and reiterated the long-term plan to bolster his young side with top signings to complement the incredible youth talent nurtured in the academy.

It's a nice sentiment to have, and one which the club does genuinely believe in, but if United continue to miss out on Champions League qualification it is one which won't be able to continue in the long run.

United set an unenviable precedent by sacking David Moyes and Louis van Gaal when they both failed to deliver upon the target set upon them, and the same has to apply to Solskjaer.

His inexperience as a coach, coupled with the positive style of play, should grant him more time to prove himself at Old Trafford than his predecessors, but a failure to secure Champions League football by the end of next season would ultimately have to be his undoing.

United chief Woodward was reluctant to comment on Man City's ban from the top competition in European football, but deep down he must surely see the current uncertainty as an opportunity for his side to reap the rewards. Failure to do so could cost the manager his job.