United’s tough end to the season could be a blessing or a curse

With the 2016-17 season heading into its business end, 6th placed Manchester United have easily the most difficult run-in. Games against Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham all remain. The Red Devils face two trips to North London in consecutive weeks.

Memories of Upton Park? In last season’s penultimate game United blew a 2-1 lead and lost 3-2 against West Ham in the last game at the Boleyn. A win would have meant that United were in control of their own destiny with regard to Champions League qualification. The late capitulation effectively handed Man City the fourth Champions League spot. The Tottenham game is the last to be played at White Hart Lane before it is demolished. A similar result against Tottenham may consign United to the Europa League for another season.

United’s form against their rivals this season is disappointing. With just one win in 6, against Tottenham at home, they are rock bottom of the top 6 Mini-League. A drastic improvement against the top teams is required if United are to have a chance of locking down a top-4 place. 4 more matches against teams in the top 6 and with 3 of them away, Jose has a lot of planning to do.

Deep runs in the FA Cup and Europa League will result in fixture congestion and postponing of Premier League games. These games will then be played in mid-week meaning lesser and lesser preparation time for each fixture. But United do have squad depth with the potential of calling on the likes of Rooney and Rashford from the bench. Up until now, Jose has fielded strong teams in almost all matches and that trend looks to continue with a trip to Russia, a game at Stamford Bridge, back at Old Trafford for the return leg and then a trip to Middlesbrough over the next two weeks. Hectic?

Should United progress to the FA Cup semi-final, then the trip to Turf Moor will be rescheduled. A tough place to visit this year the fixture will be rescheduled for another mid-week, potentially being sandwiched by the North London trips. Trip to St. Mary’s and the Ethiad have already been rescheduled.

United will play a minimum of 59 games this season. Fatigue and injury will be United’s biggest problems come April and May. Players like Rashford, Rooney, Schweinsteiger and Luke Shaw will all get more game time as Mourinho will want to keep his squad fresh and healthy. An unfortunate injury to Ibrahimovic or Pogba will cripple the team to some extent.

United’s last ten fixtures

19th March A Middlesbrough 6
1st April H West Brom 7
4th April H Everton 8
9th April A Sunderland 5
16th April H Chelsea 9
23rd April A Burnley 7
30th April H Swansea City 6
6th May A Arsenal 8
13th May A Tottenham 9
21st May H Crystal Palace 7

Europa League and FA Cup progression can change the above table. Matches against City and Southampton will be scheduled.