Manchester United’s top-four hopes look to be hanging by a thread following their heavy derby defeat on Sunday.
The Reds were thoroughly outclassed as they fell to a 4-1 loss at Manchester City, where the scoreline could have been even bigger. Not only will the performance of damaged their pride, but the result has left a major dent in their hopes of claiming the last Champions League spot.
United now find themselves a point behind Arsenal, with the Gunners holding three games in hand. In a worst-case scenario, the Reds could find themselves 10 points off the pace.
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There will be plenty more drama over the coming weeks though as the race for fourth intensifies. Here’s a look at United’s next six Premier League fixtures compared to their rivals.
Saturday, March 12 – Tottenham (H)
Up next for United is a crucial encounter in the race for the top four, and it could well make or break their Champions League hopes for next season. Tottenham are right in the fight, and still hold three games in hand on the Reds.
Spurs’ inconsistency has seen their own chances of finishing fourth take a massive dent, with their superb win over Manchester City immediately soured by a defeat to Burnley. Their lack of form this season has led to suggestions Antonio Conte could walk away after just a few months in the job.
If United are to finish in the top four, they simply need to bounce back and defeat Tottenham. If they don’t, that could well be the end of their chances.
Saturday, April 2 – Leicester (H)
It’s been a hugely disappointing season for Leicester, for whom many might have expected them to be in the top four race this season. Their form has been so poor this season it seems to have effectively ended Brendan Rodgers’ chances of getting the United manager’s job.
They haven’t been helped by injuries to a number of key players, and they have picked up back-to-back wins over Burnley and Leeds in the last seven days. At this stage though, United can’t afford any slip-ups.
Saturday, April 9 – Everton (A)
The Toffees remain in danger in of relegation this season despite Frank Lampard’s appointment as manager. For a side that has spent as much as they have on players, that would arguably represent an even bigger failing than United’s this season.
Performances have started to improve under Lampard though, and against City they showed more fight and determination than United did against the same opponents. A trip to Goodison Park is not one to be taken lightly.
Saturday, April 16 – Norwich (H)
Having enjoyed a short revival under Dean Smith, Norwich again look destined for the drop having plummeted back to the foot of the table. A heavy defeat to Brentford at the weekend shows where they are at the moment.
Do not excuse here, this is a must-win for United. Anything less would be a major embarrassment for Ralf Rangnick’s side.
Saturday, April 23 – Arsenal (A)
The biggest fixture of the lot, and if United manage to pick up the results they need in the build-up to their visit to the Emirates, this will almost certainly determine their top-four fate. The Gunners currently sit a point ahead of the Reds, but with three games in hand.
There is still hope for United, with those three games seeing them travel to Tottenham and Chelsea and host title-chasing Liverpool. If things go their way, a win at the Emirates could well hand the advantage back to them.
Saturday, April 30 – Brentford (H)
Still hovering precariously above the relegation zone, Saturday’s win over Norwich will have come as a massive relief to Brentford and Thomas Frank. Before that, they were in serious danger of going into freefall back to the Championship.
However, this should still be three points for United. They eventually made light work of the Bees on their visit to London earlier this year, and they should be targeting a similar result this time around.
Arsenal’s next six fixtures
Aston Villa (A)
Crystal Palace (A)
West Ham’s next six fixtures
Aston Villa (H)
Tottenham’s next six fixtures
Manchester United (A)
West Ham (H)
New Castle (H)
Aston Villa (A)
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.