‘How many points?’ Realistic expectations for the month of fixtures ahead

Image: Reddit
The prayers of Manchester United fans across the world were finally answered this week with the long-awaited news that interim manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjær, has been appointed as the first-team manager. Everyone here at The United Devils would like to send our warmest congratulations to Solskjær for his appointment and what he has achieved up to now.

Solskjær has been given a three-year deal, in which he has promised to "return titles to the club". Our fanbase has criticised Executive Vice-Chairman Ed Woodward in the past for not listening to our demands. But with Ole now made permanent even before the end of the season and wishes coming true, what can we realistically expect from him and the team, at least in the month ahead?

With the Premier League facing one of its tightest run-in for years not only for the title but for places in Europe, every point matters - which means every game is a crucial one. We’re currently in fifth place on 58 points with eight games to go: one point ahead of Chelsea in sixth but two points behind Arsenal in fourth (surprise, surprise) and three behind Tottenham in third.

We are now reaching the ‘business-end of the season’ and the Red Devils’ fixture list for the end of March/April certainly reflects that. They return from the international break to host Premier League high-fliers Watford today at Old Trafford, 3PM. It’s a game we should win, given the need to bounce back having lost our last two previous games against Arsenal and Wolves. Every player will be eager to stake their place in the starting eleven as the manager now has some serious questions to ask with regards to the extensive rebuilding project that needs to take place over the summer.

Shifting the focus back onto the game later today, Watford currently sit in eighth place on 43 points. They have enjoyed a largely fruitful season, with players such as Gerard Deulofeu shining in the team. Despite losing their last two Premier League games, against Leicester City and Manchester City, Watford booked themselves a place in the FA Cup semi-finals having beaten Crystal Palace 2-1 in Mid-March. A win today would give Manchester United 61 points from 31 games, but our position would be dependant on the other teams in and around us. Liverpool’s clash against Tottenham tomorrow afternoon could have big ramifications for the title race and top-four fight for Champions League places. If we win today, and so do Liverpool tomorrow, we’ll be level on points with Spurs on 61 points. As a prediction, we're expecting Man United win.

April is arguably our most difficult month yet. In the League we have games against Everton, Chelsea and the Manchester Derby, while in the Champions League, our Quarter Final ties take place against the current La Liga leaders, Barcelona. April fixtures are as follows:

April 2nd: Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Manchester United
April 10th: Manchester United vs. Barcelona
April 13th: Manchester United vs. West Ham United
April 16th: Barcelona vs. Manchester United
April 21st: Everton vs. Manchester United
April 24th: Manchester United vs. Man City
April 28th: Manchester United vs. Chelsea

Securing Champions League football for next season should be the primary objective but finishing third would be a great testament to the transformative work implemented by Ole since his arrival in December 2018. The Premier League is too unpredictable at the moment and at any given time Tottenham, Arsenal or Chelsea could suffer shock defeats to our advantage. Man United must focus on controlling what we can, winning every game and ensuring that each players performs to their maximum.

Our first league game in April is against Wolves. Given how we played against them in the FA Cup, the team needs to take this fixture as seriously as possible. Wolves were dominant in possession for 90 minutes but we have every faith in the team to rectify this. In that game, intensity and high pressing was lacking but United should have learned from their errors and make amends this time around. Nevertheless, we must show respect to Wolves for what they have achieved in the league this season - currently in seventh place and playing some impressive football under Nuno Espirito Santo.

With the Champions League, it was already a phenomenal feat to overturn the 2-0 deficit against one of the competition’s favourites, Paris Saint-Germain. The team should utilise their home advantage in the first-leg. But we must be realistic with our chances against Barcelona. We will enter the Quarter Finals as the underdogs, but the last round taught us and rest of Europe that ties are won over two legs, not one. If we do manage to beat Barcelona, then we have every reason to believe that we can go all the way. In the first leg, we're expecting a draw but in the second leg, given its at the Camp Nou, a Barcelona win is the most likely outcome.

Overall, it’s a time to be optimistic. Ole Gunnar Solskjær has turned the club’s fortunes around. But we must not get ahead of ourselves, there is much work to be done. April will be our clearest indication yet of where the club currently is and what needs to be achieved to reach the next level for next season.

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