It has been a strange old season at Manchester United.
After a stuttering start and woeful winter, few would have predicted Louis van Gaal’s men still being in with a shot at finishing in the top four with just two months of the campaign remaining.
However, despite last weekend’s 1-0 defeat to West Bromwich Albion, United are still in with a shot at securing Champions League football for next season. And, if last year is anything to go by, few would bet against them pipping the likes of Manchester City and West Ham to the position come May.
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Last year, United were knocked out of the FA Cup by Arsenal and, with their form showing no signs of improving, many predicted them to fall behind to fierce rivals Liverpool and finish outside the top four for a second consecutive season.
However, when the pressure was at its highest, the club produced results. A swashbuckling 3-0 victory over Mauricio Pochettino’s men at Old Trafford reignited the beast within and set the stage for what would be a memorable few months for Van Gaal’s men.
Juan Mata scored twice as Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool were overcome at Anfield, whilst Manchester City were thumped 4-2 in the derby with Ashley Young, Marouane Fellaini, Mata and Chris Smalling on the scoresheet.
Three defeats in a row to Chelsea, Everton and West Bromwich Albion increased the pressure around Old Trafford, yet a 2-1 victory over Crystal Palace coupled with a 1-1 draw against Arsenal ensured United return to Europe’s biggest club competition.
Crunch run in
Regardless of how City and West Ham perform, Van Gaal will be aiming to secure maximum points from the games remaining if his time at the club is to stretch into a third season.
Many of the supporters are clamouring for the appointment of either Jose Mourinho or Ryan Giggs, and finishing outside of the top four would mean the club would most likely have to make a third managerial appointment since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013.
There is still a derby game at the Etihad Stadium to come – a game neither Van Gaal or Manuel Pellegrini dare not lose – whilst Leicester and Tottenham also lie in wait with both sides desperate to land a maiden Premier League title.
Norwich and Bournemouth represent the final two games of the season, and with both aiming to stay in the top flight their thirst to survive could be another banana skin for United.
Last year, Van Gaal’s men were written off only to bounce back. If they can do the same this season, it may be enough to buy him another year in English football.
Can United secure a top-four finish this season? Have YOUR say in the comment box below!