Manchester United surged out of the gate when the Premier League returned. Just in the first five games back, including the FA Cup tie against Norwich, the Red Devils went undefeated, only dropping league points to Tottenham Hotspur in the return game.
The feel-good factor that was being carried through the backend of January up to the pause, in which United won eight and drew three without loss in all competitions, has continued now. Star players are stepping up and the defence looks more assured, putting the club in a perfect position to battle for a place in the Champions League.
Attack is clicking in the league
Scoring 12 goals in the returning four Premier League games was a tremendous feat for a team which, earlier in the campaign, looked rather disjointed and lacking in creativity. Of course, the introduction of midfield maestro Bruno Fernandes has changed all of that, with his tin opener abilities breaking United onto the score sheet.
Through just his first 14 games for the club, the Portuguese star nailed seven goals and six assists: six of those goal contributions have come since the return. With a creative force in midfield, the talented batch of forwards has been awoken, with Anthony Martial even scoring the club’s first hat-trick in the league since 2013.
Although coming back to better form than any club in the division, United are coming in from behind to claim one of the remaining two top-four places. However, an almighty set of fixtures means that the team’s destiny is in their own hands.
United are already in soaring form, with the team becoming one of the favourites to back in the live betting on each matchday, and look set to continue to be popular throughout their final five fixtures. They face four clubs in the bottom half, two of which have nothing to play for, and then a duel with Leicester City which could determine the team that gets a Champions League place.
If the domestic effort fails, turn to Europe
Thanks to how UEFA has decided to stage its continental competitions after domestic leagues wrap, United can put all of their efforts into Champions League qualification via the Premier League. However, if that fails, the Europa League offers a second chance at achieving the feat.
Having battered LASK 5-0 before the break, United are effectively through to the quarter-finals and are presently the favourites to win the tournament. However, there are three distinct frontrunners looking to usurp United: Inter Milan, Bayer Leverkusen and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Bayer Leverkusen boast an incredibly talented and almost fearless squad, but their historical record against the Old Trafford residents of four losses and two ties emphasises United’s place as the favoured team should the two clubs meet.
Inter Milan is the most menacing name of the three, but United also boast an undefeated record against the Italian giants with two wins and two draws. However, Inter have been infused with Premier League and, specifically, ex-United talent this season, with manager Antonio Conte (four wins, two losses against the Red Devils) bringing in Ashley Young, Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sánchez this season along with Victor Moses and Christian Eriksen.
It may be Wolves who pose the biggest threat to a run at the Europa League for United, though. Since their most recent promotion to the Premier League, Wolves have won two, drawn four, and only lost once to the red side of Manchester.
Manchester United are now in the perfect position to battle for a place in next season’s Champions League, being able to focus on the top-four and then, if that fails, the Europa League – both of which favour the Red Devils to achieve their goal.