After being knocked out of the FA Cup by Arsenal, Manchester United faces the difficult task of battling four teams that are currently in the top six places on the Barclay’s Premier League table, in the next five matches.
All eyes will be on United as a UEFA Champions League position for next season is on the line. This is the most important Champions League qualification United have needed to get for many years. With the team going through struggles this season, getting big name signings for next season will only be possible if United clinch Champions League berth. The next three matches are against Tottenham, Liverpool and Aston Villa. Villa are by far the least threatening of the three, but nine points from these matches would put United in a prime position to reach the Champions League next year. Manchester City and Chelsea will be much more difficult opponents, but this cannot intimidate United. Defeating all of these teams seems unrealistic, but the key is to focus on the first three matches because they can help United’s push for a top four finish. This needs to be the club’s number one priority after the recent FA Cup exit.
To accomplish this goal, Manchester United must take some of the positives from the Arsenal match. For one, Wayne Rooney back up top seems to be the best fit for the captain. With Angel Di Maria suspended, there is a chance for Juan Mata to get back into the starting lineup. Having Mata command the midfield and Rooney getting on the end of through balls and crosses, United’s luck could change. Getting past Spurs needs to be the biggest priority for the team right now. Every match has to be treated like a cup final, especially against Spurs and Liverpool because they sit just below United in the standings. Focusing on one match at a time will become easier because United only have Premier League fixtures for the remainder of the season. These wins are crucial for a chance at finishing in the top four.
Spurs will not be a walkover for United. The Red Devils will have to control the midfield and deny any opportunities for Christian Eriksen to cross balls to striker Harry Kane. Spurs sit only three points behind United, which makes this match a six point swing for both teams. Manchester United have a far superior goal differential, but being level on points is risky business.
Manchester United have to worry about more than just Spurs. Liverpool are two points behind and play United after the Red Devils host Tottenham. Obviously United must first get past Spurs, but Liverpool is on the mind of every Manchester United supporter.
Dropping in the standings is not the only possibility for United. Arsenal are one point ahead of United on the table, so there is a chance that United could be sitting third place at the end of the weekend. United is just five points off from Manchester City which could reduce as the season comes to an end. The Champions League places are limited, and without counting City and the second place position, there are five teams fighting for two spots.
Beating Spurs on Sunday could start a run that secures Manchester United a spot in the Champions League next season. United have an opportunity to take charge for the rest of the season, and it can all begin with a win against Spurs.
This article was researched and written by Shawn Medow. You can follow him on Twitter.