This is another very crucial week in the race for the Premier League title and Jose Mourinho’s side have the two hardest fixtures. First they face Arsenal, who have won their last 12 home game, and then they take on local rivals Man City, who have not lost a game all season. This is how the official Man Utd website described the crucial week….
THE BIGGEST OF CHALLENGES FOR UNITED
After Wednesday’s results in the Premier League, it’s clear the next two fixtures for Manchester United will provide an ultimate test of our title credentials.
Jose Mourinho’s men produced a fine 4-2 away win at Watford to close the gap at the top to five points on the same evening Tottenham were beaten at Leicester City.
Last night, Liverpool (3-0 at Stoke City) and Chelsea (1-0 versus Swansea City) both picked up maximum points, while Arsenal went to town against Huddersfield, racking up a 5-0 success in preparation for United’s visit on Saturday.
But it was City’s 96th-minute winner that keeps the Blues riding high at the summit, regaining an eight-point advantage with the Manchester derby at Old Trafford looming large. The nature of that latest victory for Pep Guardiola’s side, secured deep into stoppage time against Southampton, was undeniably a blow, not only to the Reds but all of the chasing pack.
Yet the leaders are at least showing signs of fallibility, even if Sunday’s visit of struggling West Ham United, beaten 4-0 at Everton, to the Etihad Stadium may lead to yet another three points for our neighbours in advance of the derby.
First and foremost, the Arsenal game will be a huge challenge for United. The Gunners have now notched 12 home wins on the spin and the Emirates has become as much as a fortress as Old Trafford. A triumph in the North London derby with Tottenham has raised morale to its highest point of the season and Huddersfield, who have proved against United and City how awkward they can be, were put to the sword.
In any season, a draw away to Arsene Wenger’s troops would probably be considered a good result. However, with City breaking all sorts of records this term, if United are to keep within a respectable distance and set up a humdinger of a contest at the Theatre of Dreams, it could be argued, in the context of this run of games, three points are required. That’s a tall order considering Arsenal have not been beaten on their home patch since January.
As other managers have already intimated, there is obviously a reliance on Premier League rivals to stop City’s march and, so far, that hasn’t happened since the draw with Everton in their opening home fixture. At least, the derby is one game United can directly influence and there is no doubt the fans will be out to roar the Reds on to a famous victory. Ending the Blues’ unbeaten run would be the sort of challenge, the manager, players and club absolutely relish.
There is still the feeling the busy winter schedule will prove problematic for all teams, including City. If United can manoeuvre ourselves into a position to take advantage of any slips, those already handing the trophy to the leaders could look foolish with so long still to go. However, there is no denying these are two absolutely vital fixtures for United and they do not come much harder.
This is the ultimate test for Jose and his players. Wins in the next two domestic outings would go a long way to showing United are genuine contenders for the title and ensuring the race remains very much on.
As much as for United, this game is just as important for Arsenal to win. If the Gunners win this and beat one of our bogey teams, Southampton, away next week. We will be right up in contention again…..