Louis van Gaal would have to pull off the most astonishing turn around from this position if Manchester United are to overcome the odds and secure a top four finish. Indeed, since the start of the premier league era, the top four teams going into this round of matches have almost always been the top four teams in May.

United find themselves trailing in form and confidence to the four sides above them, all of whom are involved in a title race. The failure to match the consistency of Tottenham Hotspur or Leicester City this season has seen United lose their elite placing in the league with just the 13 games left.

Whilst United still get to meet all the sides above them between now and the end of the season, they have only rarely managed to string together a few wins to build a semblance of consistency over this campaign. Indeed, United last won two straight games in the league in November.

The failure to hold on to the three points on Sunday all but confirmed one thing we can be certain about this campaign: United will not win the league for a third straight year. The remaining question as far as the league is concerned is whether United can overcome a six point margin (seven if you factor in goal difference) to claim a Champions League spot.

With the top four in direct opposition this weekend, chances are United could be as close as three points from that target if results go their way. It all adds importance to Saturday's lunchtime trip to the Stadium of Light against Sunderland.

United have never been beaten at the Stadium of Light in the premier league era but a point would not really help their cause this Saturday. Sam Allardyce's side might be on the wrong end of the table but they're formidable opposition especially for the top sides. Over the last week, they gave Manchester City a run or two for the points and recently came away from Anfield with a point despite trailing 0-2 with ten minutes to go.

United have been 'superb' according to Louis van Gaal in the past few weeks. In truth, the Reds have been entertaining, something we could not have dreamed to associate with them this season. There is a vibrancy about the side going forward nowadays. Southampton and Sheffield United aside, United have been decent in every other game this year.

Coming away from Stamford Bridge disappointed with a point should hold the club in good stead confidence-wise ahead of a week in which United will first test the awkward schedule of premier league football and Europa League football on the Thursday.

Louis van Gaal remains a man on trial at the club, at least according to the papers, but if the club can push on to a run of results in the final third of the season, the Dutchman might yet be allowed to extend into his final year of his contract with the club if only because there is no known written agreement between Manchester United and Jose Mourinho.  

Labels: ,