After Manchester United’s vital victory over Liverpool at Anfield, their manager Louis van Gaal told the media that he believes his side can still win the Premier League title this season. Most people would agree that the chances of Van Gaal’s side lifting the Premier League trophy in May are extremely thin, and that a top four finish is a more realistic target.
The Red Devils have been indifferent so far this season, with their style of play being widely criticised, and they currently lie five points outside of the Champions League places let alone the top of the table. However, despite the inconsistency of performances, United fans will have been buoyed by results since the turn of the year.
For a club the size of Man United, it’s a must that they have Champions League football next season and here are five reasons why they will do it.
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United can only get better
Despite the slow nature of their attacking play, at the end of September Man United were on top of the league having averaged three goals per game that month. December was a complete disaster as far as United were concerned, crashing out of the Champions League at the group stages and failing to win any of their six matches in all competitions.
Apart from December, United have only lost three times in the league all season and their results haven’t actually been that bad, even if their performances have been. Since the goalless draw with Chelsea on December 28 Van Gaal has certainly set up his teams with more attacking intent and they have a genuine counter-attacking threat with the pace of French forward Anthony Martial.
If United have managed to remain in contention for a top four place playing as poorly as they have done, where will they end up if and when they start to improve?
David de Gea
David de Gea was probably the main reason why Man United secured a top four finish last season. The world-class Spaniard kept ten clean sheets, producing some unbelievable goalkeeping displays along the way and if possible, he has been even better this season.
De Gea has won United’s Player of the Year award for two seasons running and over that time he has single-handedly won his team points that they didn’t deserve. The 25-year-old’s distribution is second to none, he has incredible reflexes and he has become almost unbeatable in one-on-one situations, already boasting eight league clean sheets so far this term.
No one running away with it
In one of the most open title races in recent memory, it seems as though no one wants to win the Premier League this year and this is good news for United’s top four hopes. Manchester City and Arsenal are arguably the only teams that have shown enough quality to suggest that they will comfortably finish in the top four come the end of the season.
The Red Devils are experienced when it comes to the business end of the season whereas teams around them like Leicester City and West Ham have never been this far up the league table at this stage of the competition.
Mauricio Pochettino has been lauded for bringing through bright English talent and creating an energetic, free-flowing team at White Hart Lane, however only Everton have drawn more games than Spurs this season.
Other big clubs underperforming
Chelsea would’ve had aspirations of successfully defending the Premier League but their entire season to date has been one huge nightmare. Jose Mourinho lost matches, the dressing room and ultimately his job and even though results have improved under Guus Hiddink, the champions still find themselves firmly in the bottom half of the table.
Liverpool became instant top four favourites as soon as Jurgen Klopp took over at Anfield but they’ve won just seven of 15 league matches since the German’s arrival. Furthermore, Liverpool couldn’t even beat a Man United side that only had one shot on target against them eight days ago.
Rooney returning to form
Following Robin van Persie’s departure last summer, Wayne Rooney is the only proven goalscorer within Van Gaal’s squad and carries the lion’s share of the goalscoring responsibility at the club. United’s captain has been heavily questioned by critics this season for his displays but in recent weeks the 30-year-old has finally started to answer those questions.
Rooney has been brilliant in 2016, providing one assist and scoring five goals (three of which have been match-winning goals) in five matches. He is a real leader, he is proving that he has immense character and his goal at Anfield means that no one has scored more goals for one club than Rooney in Premier League history.
United well positioned
An argument can be made that, with the exception of Manchester City and Arsenal, no team has a striker better than Rooney and a keeper better than De Gea. If both of these players remain in top form over the coming weeks, United could string together a solid run of wins and put themselves in a very good position to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
Say what you want about Van Gaal’s tactics but the man knows how to win football matches against the big teams. Since the Dutchman arrived at Old Trafford he has overseen victories away to Arsenal and Everton, at home against Man City and Spurs, and beaten Liverpool four times in a row.
Do you think United can finish in the top four? Give YOUR opinion in the comment box below!