A few short weeks ago, Manchester United’s season was going nowhere and the prospect of cementing a Europa League place was scarcely a highlight for fans moving forward. Suddenly, six straight wins under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has put a rather different perspective on matters at Old Trafford.
Sunday’s win at Wembley Stadium means that United are now just six points off the final Champions League place and, if that recent form is maintained, it’s perfectly possible to get back among Europe’s elite for 2019-20.
Tough ties are ahead however so where will this campaign be ultimately defined?
United’s battle against the odds is just one of the highlights of a big sporting year. We know that the club are a global brand so while there will be distractions for supporters in India who will be using this website to assess events such as the 2019 cricket world cup, the desire for Manchester United to succeed will clearly extend way beyond the British Isles.
The world awaits and expects Ole to deliver so, in the first instance, who is preparing to shatter the club’s Top Four aspirations?
Manchester United will not win the Premier League title in 2018-19 but they may well have a say in its ultimate destiny. Before the season concludes, they will play both of the main title challengers – Manchester City and Liverpool.
The good news is that both of those games are at Old Trafford, starting with the visit of Liverpool on February 24. The City game follows on March 16 and you feel that United will need to target a minimum of four points from those two games in order to stay in the Champions League hunt. Another tricky fixture comes along on March 9th with Solskjaer’s team travelling to North London to face Arsenal. The Gunners have mixed form under Unai Emery but at home they have the capacity to challenge any of the big clubs.
Aside from those three fixtures, the run in to the end of the season looks pretty straightforward. There are tricky away trips to Wolves and Everton but whereas United seemed to have the capacity to slip up against any side at the start of the campaign, Solskjaer has built a far more ruthless unit.
Points can and probably will be dropped elsewhere but those three games in particular are pivotal to the rest of the campaign.
Fighting on Three Fronts
Manchester United fans will argue that they should be aiming beyond a top four finish in the league and given their recent history that’s probably true. We can, unfortunately, rule out a title tilt for another season but in 2018-19, there are two trophies that Solskjaer and his back-up team can legitimately aim for.
The draw for the fourth round of the FA Cup wasn’t particularly kind to the Red Devils and the Emirates Stadium is the destination once again as the club takes on Unai Emery’s Arsenal. The tie is set to be played on Friday January 25th and if United can progress, they would have a strong chance in the competition.
With Liverpool out and Arsenal also removed from the equation, United’s form suggests they can add to their haul of trophies in the world’s oldest knockout competition.
The Champions League trophy is also a target although this is clearly a much stiffer task for the club. Following the long break for the group stages, United will return to action against PSG with the home leg set for Old Trafford on February 12 followed by the return trip to Paris on March 6.
The world will be watching these key dates for the club in the weeks that lie ahead but will the interim manager be able to deliver on his early promise and turn 2018-19 into a far more positive campaign for Manchester United?