With eighteen Premier League matches left in the season, Manchester United trail league leading Arsenal by eleven points and are five points behind Liverpool in the race for the BPL’s final Champions League spot; United would actually need to finish higher than their North West rival because Liverpool currently hold an advantage in goal difference.
The momentum United had built over the past few weeks was abruptly halted by Tottenham on New Year’s Day when Spurs were able to leave Old Trafford with a 2-1 victory; thus ending United’s six match winning streak in all competitions.
With that loss, United’s hopes of regaining their league title have all but vanished.As quickly as United had regained their ‘spirit’, the club was quickly slapped back to reality by Spurs and were reminded that time is slowly ticking away on their Premier League season.
United are failing with their title defense while also engaging in a three-team dogfight with Liverpool, Everton and Tottenham for the league’s final Champions League position; United trail third place Chelsea by nine points.
The club is staring at the possibility of missing out on Europe altogether next season.
Missing out on the Champions League won’t sit well with Manchester United supporters or anyone involved at the club. A section of fans have been voicing their opinions on social media platforms and the consensus is that United have to bring in reinforcements during the January transfer window in order to save this season.
In October 2013, Sir Alex Ferguson was asked about Manchester United’s early form and the legendary manager had this to say in regards to David Moyes’ first season in charge: “For David, winning a trophy would be a fantastic achievement no matter what it is – the League Cup, FA Cup, European Cup or Premier League.” He went on to discuss how difficult it is to compete in all of these competitions before reiterating that winning a cup would be a massive achievement for the club under Moyes.
That’s why Manchester United’s next two fixtures at home to Swansea City and away at Sunderland could be the defining points of their season.
With the Premier League title race all but over (yes, they still have a mathematical chance…), should United lose to Swansea City on Sunday, they would be knocked out of the FA Cup and a second trophy would be crossed off the club’s list.
Two days later, Manchester United travel to the Stadium of Light for the first leg of the League Cup against Sunderland. If United were to lose that match, they would have to beat the Black Cats at Old Trafford; and as United supporters have seen this year, a win at Old Trafford is no longer a ‘guarantee’.
Of course, if Manchester United were to fall short in both of these English competitions they are still in the Last 16 of the Champions League. And regardless of the odds, United still have a favorable tie to look forward to against Olympiacos and anything can happen over two legs in that competition.
But not many would favor United to advance any further than Olympiacos in the tournament. That’s why it is imperative that Manchester United forget about their difficulties in the league and focus all their efforts on beating Swansea City in the FA Cup third round on Sunday.
To this point of the season, United have been able to do just that.
In spite of their Premier League struggles, United were one of only three teams to advance through the Champions League group stages undefeated, while also winning their three League Cup matches (one of which over Liverpool); thus advancing to the semi-final of the English competition. They’ve continued to succeed in these tournaments despite poor league results and numerous injuries to the first team; this is something Manchester United will need to continue to emulate on Sunday.
Wayne Rooney returned to the lineup against Spurs on New Years Eve, but may be rested by David Moyes on Sunday due to the forward’s ongoing groin issues. Ashley Young picked up a shoulder injury against Spurs and will miss the FA Cup tie; while Robin Van Persie, Phil Jones, Rafael de Silva and Nani could all end up short of fitness for the third round encounter.
United’s lineup against Swansea City could resemble the one that faced Stoke City in the League Cup a few weeks ago. The club’s supporters and David Moyes will be hoping that United’s fringe players can equal the performance from that day at the Britannia Stadium.
Unfortunately (despite the cries from various fans on Twitter), United won’t be signing any new players before Sunday’s FA Cup match or prior to Tuesday’s League Cup tie against Sunderland. So once again it’s up to Manchester United supporters to get behind this team and for the players to perform to their abilities. United will have to turn in determined efforts similar to the ones they fulfilled at home against Arsenal (in the Premier League) and away at Stoke City (in the League Cup) in order to keep their hopes of winning silverware alive in 2014.
Depending on the results, the next few days will have a huge say as to whether or not the club will be bringing home any trophies this year.
Editor’s note: For the latest Red Devils opinion, news and analysis, visit the Manchester United team page.