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.