April Preview: Injuries and a flurry of matches to derail Manchester United?

Manchester United have reached April in the 2016/17 season, and it is by no means going to be an easy month to get through. Last season, United played six times in April, only really playing for the Emirates FA Cup and a place inside the top four in the Premier League, which did not come through, but the FA Cup did return to Manchester. This season, United are out of the FA Cup but are playing for a UEFA Champions League place again, having two chances to earn that; finishing inside the top four in the league or winning the UEFA Europa League. United recently went into the international break in a good position, earning a fifth placed position in the league and coming to a head with injuries. At the time, Wayne Rooney was recovering, Paul Pogba had recently suffered a hamstring injury and Daley Blind had a head injury.

The international break saw Phil Jones leave the England training camp before the friendly with Germany and Chris Smalling return after that match, both suffering from long-term injuries. Rooney is ready to feature in Saturday afternoon’s clash with West Bromwich Albion, which allays the fears of a massive injury list. Paul Pogba may not be ready to play, though. Late on Friday evening, it was announced that Juan Mata had undergone groin surgery on Thursday with suggestions he could be out for the remainder of the season, but that has yet to be confirmed. Going into a period where United play nine matches in 30 days, with three long-term injuries is not a great position to be in, but it is a position they will have to get through gracefully or face their season falling apart despite already winning the FA Community Shield and the EFL Cup.

Manchester United v West Bromwich Albion – Premier League – 1st April 2017

April starts with the visit of West Brom, who are pushing for a place in Europe next season and have seemingly earned their Premier League survival for another season. The Baggies are a tough side to beat, or at least have been for United over the past few seasons. United won at the Hawthorns with a 2-0 victory earlier in the season, and three points against Tony Pulis’ side are necessary in order to keep chase on the top four. The Merseyside derby will take place earlier on Saturday, which could see United pushed down in the league again, but a victory will restore the position in fifth place for the Red Devils. Arsenal faces Manchester City on Sunday, which could give United another chance to better their position this season. Mourinho’s United side are a bit depleted at this moment in time with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ander Herrera still suspended, and the injuries, but they have enough firepower to take one match at a time, doing what they need to do for the three points on offer.

Match Prediction: Manchester United 3-1 West Bromwich Albion

Manchester United v Everton – Premier League – 4th April 2017

Three days after the visit of West Brom, United will entertain Everton at the Theatre of Dreams. Everton faces a big match before that, though, playing Liverpool at Anfield. Everton have been a resurgent side this season with Romelu Lukaku one of the top scorers in the Premier League, with the toffees trying to eclipse their local rivals, who are not the team they were at the start of the season, despite not playing in European competition and looking rather tired. Everton will be up for beating Manchester United, especially if they do not beat the Baggies on Saturday. Everton could make it hard for United to earn a top four place this season by leapfrogging them, which would near enough end all hopes of a strong finish for United, who had not taken advantage of rivals draws and defeats earlier in the season, let alone not doing what they needed to do in matches where they draw or even lost. Two quick-fire important matches will be tough for United, but Ibrahimovic and Herrera will boost Mourinho’s side, as could Pogba if he does not face the Baggies.

Match Prediction: Manchester United 1-0 Everton

Sunderland v Manchester United – Premier League – 9th April 2017

David Moyes’ relegation threatened Sunderland side will have to encounter United five days after the visit of Everton to Old Trafford. United will have a bit of breathing space before the fixtures come in thick and fast meaning United will play on average every three days throughout the month. Sunderland were sitting at the bottom of the Premier League table at the end of March, some seven points from safety, which could be even worse for them should they remain winless during the first two matches of April. It would be nice for United to relegate Sunderland, but I think it is a little early for that at this moment in time, which is a shame as they do deserve it for what their fans did when City won the league back in the 2010/11 season. Being at the bottom of the league every season will soon catch up with them as there are far better teams in the Championship who could put a better fight for survival together.

Match Prediction: Sunderland 0-3 Manchester United

Anderlecht v Manchester United – UEFA Europa League – 13th April 2017

United will commence their battle to win the Europa League four days after the visit to the Stadium of Light with a trip to Belgium. It was not the further place United could have visited had the draw been different, so blessings must be counted for the draw United got. Anderlecht were beaten 10-0 by United in 1956, still a record today, but that will not be the scoreline this season. I reckon the result will be close like it was in Russia against Rostov with United ensuring they leave Belgium with at least one away goal. United may well beat Anderlecht, but a 1-1 draw would not be a disaster, as long as fatigue does not take precedent in the side with Chelsea sitting between both fixtures and United needing to beat them after losing twice to the Blues already this season.

Match Prediction: Anderlecht 1-1 Manchester United

Manchester United v Chelsea – Premier League – 16th April 2017

The visit of Chelsea to Old Trafford comes three days after United’s trip to Belgium. United have not beaten Chelsea since 2012, meaning they should be looking to get a result against the champions-elect, which will probably not derail their title bid, but would give United the chance to claw back some of their lead and ensure a good chance of earning a top four place, if they have not done so by the time this match kicks off. Three Premier League matches will have been played at this point, if United win all three, or avoid defeat in all of them, chances are, unless all three were draws, United will be in a much better position. Beating Chelsea, who have scored five against United in the Premier League and the Emirates FA Cup this season, without reply, is a must. Fatigue may start to show itself with this being the fifth match of the season so far, so anything could happen. I think a draw would be a good result, but I do want United to score against the team to beat this season.

Match Prediction: Manchester United 0-0 Chelsea

Manchester United v Anderlecht – UEFA Europa League – 20th April 2017

Four days after the visit of Chelsea, United are back at the Theatre of Dreams, this time playing for a semi-final place in the Europa League. If this fixture in Belgium resulted in a draw, United would need to pull out all the stops to defeat Anderlecht at Old Trafford, hopefully not doing it too late like they did against Rostov, with it nearly going into extra time if not for the heroics of Sergio Romero in the last-minute of the match. United will be two-thirds through their fixtures for April, looking towards May and the end of the season, with at least four matches to play, which will become six, should they beat Anderlecht, which could then become seven matches if they go all the way to the final in Sweden, which could be fitting for Zlatan Ibrahimovic and his trophy haul.

Match Prediction: Manchester United 3-1 Anderlecht

Burnley v Manchester United – Premier League – 23rd April 2017

Three days after facing Anderlecht at Old Trafford, United travel the 23-mile journey to Burnley, which could see them in a strong position in the Premier League, or a weak one – hopefully the former. Three matches remain until the end of the month, with United possibly into the semi-finals of the Europa League and knowing their opposition. A victory over Burnley will be on the cards, especially after the two sides endured a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford in October which saw former United Academy player Tom Heaton do a good impression of Gianluigi Buffon. Mourinho’s United side will be desperate to end the hoodoo against Burnley, breaking them down and scoring goals galore would be good, but this season that has not been all that regular, so a goal or two will be enough to take all three points back home to Old Trafford, fortifying their position in the top four, which needs to be the case.

Match Prediction: Burnley 1-2 Manchester United

Manchester City v Manchester United – Premier League – 27th April 2017

Four days after visiting Burnley, United will face City in the Manchester derby, albeit on a Thursday night. This could be another match where United get ready in good stead, looking well in the opening stages, and losing – which would be a disaster being that United could be in a strong position towards the end of the month, providing they go undefeated in the league, or lose only one match. Beating City for the second time this season, albeit in the EFL Cup, will be a big boost for Mourinho, who will face his counterpart in the USA Tour in the summer. Finishing above City may be a distant possibility at this moment in time, but it could be a certainty if United continue to win and then beat their noisy neighbours. Winning a trophy could still be on the cards for Pep Guardiola, who will lead his side out at Wembley a few days before the match, which could see United in with a chance to take advantage.

Match Prediction: Manchester City 0-1 Manchester United

Manchester United v Swansea City – Premier League – 30th April 2017

The final match of April, a match many will be looking forward to and one which will give the squad a good rest ahead of the visit to Arsenal at the start of May, but providing United beat Anderlecht, it could see them play on the 4th May and the 11th May – either side of the Arsenal match. Swansea City are just above the relegation zone at the end of March, which could be the same position they face at this point, or they could be inside the bottom three – you never know. Earlier in the season, United won 3-1 at the Liberty Stadium, and a result like that will be needed. At this stage, United could well be inside the top four in the league, but they could also be fighting for a place there, or have given up the fight. United will have played nine matches in April at the end of this match; seven of those being in the Premier League, which will be enough to define their season. A game in hand will still be on the cards with a visit to Southampton, so United will have a plan B if one is needed, as long as thet are not too far outside the top four, which hopefully is not the case. Swansea may be fighting for survival themselves, which could see a battle on the cards, but one United are capable of winning – the chances will be much better on that is injuries subside and no more happen before the end of the month, which could be wishful thinking.

Match Prediction: Manchester United 2-0 Swansea City

Jose Mourinho will need to dig deep with his squad throughout the month of April, ensuring that rotation happens and that key players are rested ahead of the big matches, which United could do with winning. The UEFA Europa League will be something of a priority for United but that should not mean they stop trying to earn a minimum of a fourth-placed finish in the Premier League. Two chances are currently open for United, so those two chances need to be taken. By the end of the month, more will be known as to what exactly Mourinho and his United side will need to do to finish the season on a high. UEFA Champions League participation next season is a must or revenue will fall and players wages will be cut, according to rumour.

I think United will get there and earn what they need, but with the three recent injuries dilapidating the squad, it will be very tough. Many supporters have moaned about the likes of Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Axel Tuanzebe not getting more of a chance this season, and a new name has been added in Matty Willock, who will be part of the squad for the West Brom match at Old Trafford later on Saturday. One thing is for sure, April will be exciting for United, only one match is not televised in the United Kingdom, which will mean we will all be able to watch matches throughout the month, rather than relying on other means to see our team play.

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