Monday, 20 March 2017

Top four fight to go to the wire

The congested fight for a top four league finish took another twist over the weekend.

The race to qualify for next season’s Champions League looks set to go to the wire after dropped points for Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City in the latest round of fixtures. 

Missed opportunities against Hull, Stoke, West Ham, Burnley and Bournemouth have been of great frustration for the team this season, but there was no disappointment at The Riverside.
Despite missing several key names, the Reds brushed aside struggling and managerless Middlesbrough to keep up the pressure on the sides above them.

The Reds had occupied sixth place for 106 days but have now displaced Arsene Wenger’s out of form side.
United’s 3-1 win at Middlesbrough stretched our unbeaten league run to 18 games and lifted us above the Gunners into fifth (it was also our landmark 600th Premier League victory).
The north London side have finished in the top four for 20 successive seasons but that exemplary record now looks under increasing threat after their 3-1 defeat at West Brom – a fourth defeat in five matches. 

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool shared the points with City in an Etihad thriller and are four points ahead of United, but the Reds have the caveat of two games in hand.

As a result of their three-pronged assault on the cups, United’s away trips to City and Southampton are yet to be added to an already congested fixture list.

Liverpool are unbeaten over eleven games against the other sides in the top six but have struggled against the teams in the lower half of the table.

With the league set for a two-week hiatus, the Merseyside derby on the 1st April is the only fixture they have left against any team in the top ten.

United, by contrast, still face that daunting trip to City as well as Chelsea at home and high profile visits to Arsenal and high flying, in form Spurs.

Those encounters are set to be played in on successive May weekends and will go a long way to defining each side’s respective destinies.

We're faced with the most testing run-in out of all the sides in top four contention, but thanks to our continued Europa League progress, we don't need to rely solely on league position. 

The competition has gained added importance and prestige since the winners were awarded automatic entry into the Champions League.

Jose has made no secret of his desire to take us all the way and, with that back door open, there's added incentive for United in the only major honour missing from the club's collection.



  

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