Sunday, 29 March 2015

How will United end the season?

Manchester United's Premier League run-in.

As there is no Premier League this weekend due to the latest round of International games, I thought I would take the opportunity of looking ahead to United's last eight matches of the season and share how I feel the run-in will play out.

United are currently in fourth position after soundly beating Spurs and Liverpool in their last two outings. By doing so, they have earned themselves some breathing space with the teams behind them and can start looking at clawing their way past Arsenal and Man City.

There is a total of 24 points available and providing the players remain fit and Louis van Gaal sticks to the winning formula I don't see why we can't aim high.

Whisper it quietly but there is still a mathematical chance of United finishing as Champions, but I wouldn't want to jinx that as surely it's a step too far for this season.

Looking at the fixture schedule ahead United have four home games and four away none of which look like being that big a problem for the Red Devils.

Let's take a look at each match individually.

Aston Villa (h)

The first meeting at Villa Park this season finished all square at 1-1 thanks to an equaliser from Falcao against ten man Villa. Since then Villa have replaced their manager with Tim Sherwood who took over from Paul Lambert.

However, their fortunes have not really changed in the Premier League as they are still in the bottom reaches hovering dangerously over the relegation places.

It's a different story in the FA Cup where they will meet either Blackburn or Liverpool in the semi-final. Since United were knocked out by Arsenal in the last round Villa have become my tip for the Cup.

Prediction: United players to return fresh from the Internationals and continue their good form by thumping Villa 4-0 as the visitors eyes will be on the FA Cup and later relegation battles.

Danger man: Gabriel Agbonlahor.

Manchester City (h)

At last a chance to seek revenge after the 0-1 defeat to City at The Etihad back in November. It looks like Chelsea will beat City to the title and it would be great for United to finish above our noisy neighbours and pip them to the runners-up spot.

Since the turn of the year, City's results have been up and down and this was summed up by their 1-0 defeat at the hands of Burnley.

After crashing out of the Champions League, it looks like City will end the season empty handed amid rumours that a successor to Pellegrini has already been lined up.

Prediction: United to run out 3-1 winners and add City to another of the so called big name scalps we have taken his season.

Danger man: Aguero.

Chelsea (a)

Louis van Gaal's first meeting in the Premier League against his protege Jose Mourinho took place at Old Trafford in October and ended 1-1 after a late, late strike from Dutchman Robin van Persie.

United have enjoyed their travels down to the capital this season all the more reason that they should visit Stamford Bridge full of confidence especially with their track record against the top six teams.

In all honesty, Chelsea should be close to wrapping up the league by the time we play. If they are not then it will be their own undoing as it's their title to lose.

This match will be of equal importance to both sides so I can see a cautious game that could be decided on a mistake at the back. Hopefully not by us.

Prediction: The game to end 1-1 with both teams happy to take a point in another tactical battle between the managers.

Danger man: Eden Hazard.

Everton (a)

David de Gea saved United when the two clubs met at Old Trafford at the beginning of October. The saves he made in the last few minutes of the game ensured United came out on top 2-1 and of course not forgetting the penalty he saved from Baines.

On that day, both the United goals were scored by Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao but since then the two have hardly set the league alight. Both finding it hard to get any rhythm going.

I'm sure Fellaini and Rooney will relish the return to Goodison Park to face their former club and with the great season they are having I can foresee them turning out to be the match winners.

Prediction: United to repeat the same scoreline from the first meeting 2-1 hopefully without David de Gea having to turn on the heroics again. This will also give LvG a good chance to take a closer look at full-back Seamus Coleman who has continually been linked with a move to the Red Devils.

Danger man: Aaron Lennon.

WBA (h)

The first match against WBA was another draw for United on their travels against lower opposition. This time it was a 2-2 draw in October with goals from Fellaini and Blind rescuing a point for the reds when they really should have won.

Since then WBA have been flirting within the bottom reaches of the league and are sitting eight points above the relegation spots.

They changed their manager in January by replacing Alan Irvine with relegation experienced Tony Pulis who should keep them clear of the drop as the teams below them are playing worse.

Their last outing was a 3-0 defeat by Man City a match in which they showed a lack of conviction.

Prediction: 3-0. It should be a mixture of emotions for the returning former red Darren Fletcher. If he plays he will undoubtedly receive a standing ovation from the Old Trafford faithful, but that will be the only hand of friendship United will offer.

Danger man: James Morrison.

Crystal Palace (a)

Yet another trip to the capital and a tricky match against a team that has been revitalised by new manager Alan Pardew. Palace has pace in abundance up front and that could cause the United defence some problems.

Former United winger Zaha will be licking his lips at the chance to put one over Louis van Gaal just as Danny Welbeck did for Arsenal at Old Trafford in the FA Cup quarter-final.

United won the first match at Old Trafford with a late Mata strike, but I can't see too many problems at Selhurst Park.

Prediction: United to win 2-1. A close match full of action but United to continue their good form in London by returning back up North with all three points in the bank.

Danger man: Wilfried Zaha.

Arsenal (h)

This will be the third meeting between the two rivals and it's one win apiece with United coming out on top in the league, but Arsenal balanced the books in the FA Cup.

Arsenal are favourites to lift the FA Cup, but I believe they will not therefore ending the season empty handed like United.

So, the focus on this penultimate league match will be for who finishes the highest.

The United players will be up for this match with the added incentive of gaining revenge for the cup loss. Not that United need any incentive when they play Arsene Wenger's side.

Prediction: United to win their last match of the season at Old Trafford 3-1 to round off a good season against the big clubs.

With a lap of honour but with no silverware to show I believe that the manager, his staff and the players will still feel the full support of the fans after a great end to the season.

Danger man: Olivier Giroud.

Hull City (a)

Here we are at the last match of the season away at Hull who we beat 3-0 earlier in the season.
Managed by former United legend Steve Bruce Hull have again failed to keep themselves out of danger and as I write this they are only three points away from a relegation place.

However as my choices of teams to go down don't include Hull I believe by the time they play United they will be already safe.

Prediction: United to end the season on a high and bang in the goals at the KC stadium as a marker for next season. 4-1 to the Red Devils.

Danger man: Abel Hernandez.

There you have it and if all goes according to my predictions United will end the season with seven wins and one draw to guarantee a Champions League place. And to finish above City would be even sweeter.

Then the hard work begins for LvG preparing for the challenges of next season especially in the transfer market.

Thanks for reading and whatever happens I hope you enjoy the remaining weeks of the season.

Miles Dunton.