Premier League 2018-19: Can Manchester United secure a top-four finish?
Premier League's most successful club, Manchester United, have witnessed a sensational turnaround under interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. After remaining unbeaten in 12 games, United are now back among the favorites to secure a top-four finish. With eight more games to go, United have a good chance to end up as top three, but a top-four looks realistic. Here we analyze how they could.
The Red Devils, who stayed unbeaten in 12 Premier League games, ended the streak to rivals Arsenal, on Sunday, after suffering a 0-2 defeat at the Emirates Stadium in London. As a result, United are down to the fifth spot, just two points behind Arsenal. However, they are still a mammoth 16 points behind leaders and arch-rivals Manchester City.
With eight more games to go in EPL, United would eye six of those games as must wins. These six games are scheduled to happen against smaller teams, like Watford (March 30), Wolverhampton Wanderers (April 3), West Ham United (April 13), Everton (April 21), Huddersfield (May 4) and Cardiff City (May 12). Among these six, three are home ties and three are away fixtures.
Among the eight matches, United are scheduled to play two big matches, against city rivals Manchester City (April 25), and Chelsea (April 28). However, both the matches would be held at Old Trafford, giving United a slender advantage. Even though Chelsea would be relatively easy, the home advantage won't be enough against City, and United would need to come up with a foolproof plan.
It is also to be noted that apart from EPL, United are still alive in knock-out competitions like FA Cup and UEFA Champions League. While they face Wolves on Sunday in the FA Cup quarter-finals, they are already through to the quarters of the UCL, with the draw scheduled to take place next week. Therefore, a crunch schedule, but a massive opportunity and challenge.
Gary Neville, on United's chances, has predicted, "I can look at that period for Manchester United - they could have a quarter-final and semi-final of the FA Cup and two Champions League games crammed in with City, Chelsea and Everton in two-week period."
There is no doubt that United would fight for the top-four spot. However, if they fail, what are their other options? The only solution, however tough, United would have is to win the UCL to qualify automatically for the next season. On the other hand, an FA Cup win would just guarantee them a Europa League spot, which would be equivalent to finishing fifth.