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Manchester United Are Heading Into A Vital Four Day Stretch

old trafford11 Manchester United Are Heading Into A Vital Four Day Stretch

The fortunes of a club can change instantly. This is just how it is in football sometimes. One day you’re the “in-form” team that everyone needs to “watch out for”, the next minute you’re “reeling” and your season is “on the ropes”.

Manchester United has been riding this up and down cycle for the majority of the season to date. It’s not something United fans have been used to dealing with during the club’s recent history. An onslaught of injuries to key personnel, inconsistent player performances and a change of leadership have all combined to hamper Manchester United’s progress.

Just a few weeks ago, United were riding the high of a six game winning streak in all competitions after having struggled through the early part of the season. Everything was beginning to look positive at the club and experts were warning Premier League rivals to “beware” of a vintage Manchester United late season push.

But then Tottenham won at Old Trafford to halt United’s progress. A few days later, Swansea City came into the Theatre of Dreams and knocked the Red Devils out of the FA Cup. Immediately after that result, United were dealt a defeat by Sunderland in the first leg of their semi-final League Cup tie.

As quickly as Manchester United had built up some momentum, it had been abruptly cut short, and now the club was “in crisis”.

United were able to reverse their fortune a few days later by beating Swansea City in the league, but they still are miles away from the title contenders (Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea) and are five points behind fourth place Liverpool for the final Champions League spot.

With seventeen games left in the Premier League season, the battle for fourth place appears to be coming down to four teams: Liverpool, Everton, Tottenham and Manchester United. A single league defeat, suffered while the other combatants take maximum points, could be devastating at this time of year. If the race for fourth place were between two teams, the chasing team would gain confidence seeing the team above them drop points. But with so many teams battling it out for one spot, the possibility of each team above you losing or dropping points is slim.

None of these clubs will want to lose any more ground on a Champions League spot with so many teams gunning for the financial windfall of European football next season.

That is why four days are vital to Manchester United’s season.

Should all the clubs involved in the chase for the Premier League’s final Champions League position win this weekend, Manchester United would need a result against Chelsea on Sunday or risk falling a maximum of eight points behind Liverpool; in addition to being seven points behind Everton and six behind Tottenham Hotspur.

If that weren’t enough, United face a “win or go home” match against Sunderland on Wednesday in the return leg of their League Cup semi-final. Sunderland’s 2-1 victory at the Stadium of Light has put the Red Devils in this “must win” situation.

United do enter the contest with an away goal to their advantage. But they have not been strong at home this season, while Gus Puyet’s side have been brimming with confidence recently; both in the league and the Capital One Cup. Should Sunderland score against United, the Red Devils would need to find the back of the net three times in order to win the cup tie (two goals would only push the match into extra time and/or eventually penalty kicks).

Over the span of four days, Manchester United could be out of all of their domestic cup competitions and be staring at a monumental task of catching three teams in the race for fourth place in the Premier League.

In October, Sir Alex Ferguson had this to say regarding United’s current season: “For David [Moyes], winning a trophy would be a fantastic achievement no matter what it is – the League Cup, FA Cup, European Cup or Premier League. We’ve always had priorities obviously and David is aware of that but I hope he achieves it. The key for David is to maintain – not do anything better or less – just maintain what the club has done for the last 20-odd years.”

Should United fall further behind their league competitors and be knocked out of all domestic cups, they would still have their Champions League tie against Olympiacos to point towards. The Greek club are a good, but even a weaken Manchester United should be able to navigate its way into the quarter-final of the European event. However, for United to get past the remaining members of the Champions League field would be a difficult proposition.

A trophyless season combined with missing out on Europe would be a result few could have imagined at the start of this year’s title defense. That’s why, more than ever, Manchester United need to rally the troops (the ones who are healthy) and focus on winning the rest of their matches; vital importance being placed on the next two contests.

The negative press which has followed manager David Moyes and the club this season has lit a fire under some of United’s senior players. Darren Fletcher made it known this week that there is a growing anger inside the Manchester United dressing room. The midfielder said: “It is as if some people have been waiting for it to happen and are really relishing it. We’ve got to use that as fuel to prove them wrong. We have got some great, talented young players in this squad. We have to keep reiterating to them that they believe in themselves. They will come through it without a shadow of a doubt and will be better and stronger for it.”

Nemanja Vidic has stated that the team are well aware of the challenges they face in the coming days. In an interview with ‘Inside United’, Vidic said: “We have to win regularly and in the next month we will know exactly where we are. By the end of January and start of February we will show what our position is and what our capability is in the Premier League. Then, of course, the Champions League starts up again. This is an important time for us and we all want to do well.”

The critical four day stretch kicks off on Sunday at Stamford Bridge.

About Peter Quinn

Although a college basketball coach for sixteen years on the NCAA Division I and II levels, Peter has been an avid football fan for more than half his life. He considers himself a student of coaching and team management. As well as coaching, Peter has spent time working in Sports Information at various colleges and universities. His articles on European football have been picked up by International Business Times UK and USA Today. Twitter: @CoachPeteQuinn
View all posts by Peter Quinn →

22 Responses to Manchester United Are Heading Into A Vital Four Day Stretch

  1. Flyvanescence says:

    Far as i know away goals do not count in the Capital One cup

    • Chris in Dallas says:

      You are correct.

      • Marc says:

        I think the away goal rule does come in effect after the two extra time periods.

        • Chris in Dallas says:

          Now I think you’re correct.

          Anybody else need me to validate their answers?

        • Southern FC says:

          In the Semi-Final ties, if the aggregate score is level at the end of the second game an extra half-hour shall be played. If the aggregate scores are still level at the end of extra time the tie shall be decided by goals scored away from home counting twice. If the teams remain equal after this procedure the tie shall be determined by the taking of kicks from the penalty mark in accordance with the Laws of Association Football.

          If the score is level at the end of ninety minutes in the Final Tie an extra half hour shall be played and if the score be still level at the end of extra time the winners of the Competition shall be determined by the taking of kicks from the penalty mark in accordance with the Laws of Association Football.

  2. Ianor says:

    “World soccer” lets not forget they are still the raining champions and still the best team in england & the land! This is the team that won 11 points clear in the tittle last season. So we have to respect them even if they fail to finish top four i wouldn’t be surprised they are in “transitional year”

    • Tony Butterworth says:

      I’m a Man Utd fan and I can’t agree with this. They weren’t even the best team last year they were just the most effective primarily based on one or two players and the failings of others. Where they are this season is much more inline with their personnel and purchasing over the last few years.

      People talk about their lack of big signings but in the Ferguson era that was never a major approach. They would usually scout and develop or buy younger players and do a great job of it. That just seems to have stopped now.

  3. Ianor says:

    Are you saying this team were not the best last season? Sure. they went etihad and won, they went stamforbridge and they won, also anfield and white hart line they were the most consistent team interms of winning the points. Iam not sure if you watched united last season. It was the best season in fergie’s time.

  4. Martin J. says:

    United will lose on Sunday but will win on Wednesday to set up an all-Manchester League Cup final.

    Moyes will play play to not lose at Stamford Bridge but Chelsea will do enough to win it. Rooney will probably be back for the Sunderland match and United will win easily.

  5. Ianor says:

    And also to add their points tally were incridble they were on the verge of breaking chelsea’s record in the most points which was 94 points. Their success was not a case because others were droping points because simply they were the best. we are talking 11 points margin to win the tittle in the hardest league in the world.

  6. Keep Calm and Hunt Glory says:

    Man Utd “Glory Hunters” need to keep calm.

    1. Lose the FA Cup 3rd round tie to avoid fixture congestion? Check.

    2. Lose the League Cup semifinal to avoid fixture congestion? We will know next Wednesday.

    This is 2014. Champions League or bust.

  7. Ianor says:

    Tony you can have a bad season “every dog has his own day” take look an example. chelsea two seasons ago “2011/2012″ at the start every one was saying chelsea w’ll win the league but at end do you know where they finished “staggering 25 points behind the two manchester clubs and 6th place. Look at arsenal last eight years they were finishing 20 points behind the champios. Every year you can’t stay top this season is gonna be struggle for united but next season they will be back.

  8. abdirahman says:

    hahaha. we “Chelsea” won the champions league that season.what else we need?

  9. Ianor says:

    keep calm. spot on! Fa cup third round exit avoid fixture congestion! League cup exit avoid mid week congestion! No need to worry top four. finish fifth and win champions league deny arsenal next season’s champions league football.

  10. Ianor says:

    This is the plan road to lisbon:Right now united are in the queter finals thanks to kind draw 16 round. Q.final bring psg,see out draw first leg. Second leg through! Semifinal bring real, revenge is the name this time 1-1 draw first leg. 2-0 win second leg! Into lisbon “final” bring the best bayern see out the match 0-0 in 120 minutes. Win the penalty shoot out! That is it. play next season as the defending champions deny relegate arsenal to europa league on thursday night football.

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