The clear aim for Manchester United at the start of the season was to qualify for Champions League football next season, to do that they have to finish in the top four, ideally in third place so they don’t have to play qualifying games for the group stages early in the season. After last nights victories for Arsenal and Liverpool, United currently lie in 5th place. Manchester United have 14 games left to play, starting with the game against Burnley at Old Trafford tonight. If they win this game they will be back in the top four. In the remaining games United face games against 3 of their rivals for the top four positions. By the time they get to March they will hoped to have put a gap between themselves and their rivals for the top four position.
In March Manchester United face back to back games against Tottenham Hotspur on 15th March at home and then the following week on 22nd March face a trip to Anfield to face Liverpool. Currently the third place team Southampton and the seventh place team Liverpool are only separated by 2 points. I think its safe to say that Chelsea and Manchester City will finish 1st and 2nd, so the two remaining Champions League places will go to two of Southampton, Arsenal, Manchester United, Tottenham and Liverpool. With games to play against Tottenham, Liverpool and Arsenal. The Tottenham and Arsenal games being at Old Trafford you would have to its in United’s hands to finish inside the top four of the Premier League. Though it will go down to the wire.
If Manchester United are going to achieve that top four position and gain entry back into the Champions League, you have to say it will depend on them maintaining their good form at Old Trafford. At Old Trafford this season United have played 12 Premier League games, in those 12 games, United have won 9, drawn 1 and lost two and in those games have scored 25 goals and conceded 9 goals. Gaining a total of 28 points at Old Trafford, this is only second best in the league to league leaders and potential champions Chelsea. If you contrast that to the away form, on the road United have only picked up 16 points from their 12 away games, winning only three games, drawing 7 and losing 2. In these games, United scored 15 and conceded 14.
While Manchester United haven’t lost away from home since the Manchester Derby on 2nd November and the only other game they lost away from home the debacle at Leicester in September. They have drawn far too many games away from home. They have had to score late goals on several occasions just to salvage a draw from a losing position. While this is good to see in a team as it shows they are playing for the manager and not having a defeatist attitude. You would rather see them scoring late goals to turn draws into wins.
Lets look at tonight’s game against Burnley then, if United win this then they could move back up to third in the table depending on what result Southampton get against West Ham. The game against Burnley at Turf Moor earlier this season was one of the many draws United have picked up on the road this term. Which isn’t good enough for a club like Manchester United, they should be beating some of the teams they have drawn against like Burnley and Sunderland home and away. Burnley are in the bottom three and fighting for their lives to stay in the Premier League, I fully expect them to be relegated at the end of the season. Though they have managed to pick up some decent results along the way this season, like going to our neighbours Manchester City and getting a 2-2 draw after being 2-0 down.
For tonight’s game I’m hoping to see a team that includes Mata, Herrera and Wilson from the start. With Luke Shaw suspended I would play Rojo at left-back and bring Smalling in to play centre-back alongside Jones. Bring Herrera into the midfield at the right of the midfield diamond, Mata in the number 10 role and play Rooney and Wilson up front. Wayne Rooney is not a centre midfielder and should be playing at a forward or in the number 10 role. Why are we playing Rooney in midfield when you have a fit and able centre midfielder in Herrera sat on the bench and not getting any game time.
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