For much of the season it seemed a formality that the top two spots in the Premier League would belong to Chelsea and Manchester City, with the pair battling it out in a two horse race for the title.
But although it seems just a matter of time before Chelsea secure the championship, City’s shock defeat to Burnley last weekend has well and truly opened door for a trio of sides to make a late bid and snatch second place.
With both Arsenal and Liverpool well in the mix, a three nil victory over Spurs on Sunday has also given Manchester United fans genuine belief that they can catch their city rivals as the season nears a dramatic conclusion.
United’s latest victory at Old Trafford, was a huge confidence booster following a disappointing FA Cup exit at the hands of Arsenal earlier in the week. Not only did they secure victory over one of their rivals for Champions League qualification, the manner in which they did so was most impressive.
Without doubt their best performance of the season under Louis van Gaal, United dominated from start to finish, and were good value for their three-goal victory. An impressive display full of attacking intent was long overdue having been lacking for the majority of the season, and will give the Red Devils plenty of confidence as they continue a difficult run of fixtures with a trip to Anfield this weekend.
Defeat against Spurs would have piled the pressure on both manager and players at United, and left them with a real uphill battle to secure a top four finish. But the way in which they performed on Sunday, not only shows they have more than enough to achieve their main aim, they may yet be able to challenge rivals City for a second placed finish.
City’s defeat at Burnley has certainly begun to raise alarm bells, given the poor run of form they have been on. And with just four points separating City, Arsenal, United and Liverpool, their status as a Champions League side could be in jeopardy if results don’t improve quickly.
Despite a gap of only two points to City, it still looks unlikely United can realistically catch them with away trips to Liverpool, Everton and Chelsea on the horizon. Home fixtures against City themselves and Arsenal also look difficult, and it is conceivable Van Gaal’s side could drop plenty of points between now and the end of the season.
However, another positive result against Liverpool on Sunday, and there’s no telling how United may go on to finish the campaign. With Wayne Rooney thriving in a more attacking role, and the likes of Ashley Young and Marouane Fellaini hitting form in recent weeks, there certainly appears to be more of swagger about United at present.
Their problems have been well documented since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, but they still have an array of quality at their disposal, and on their day can beat any of the top sides in the division. And what’s more they could be hitting form at the most important point of season.
Despite the fact their performances have attracted plenty of criticism throughout the campaign, for people to be even mentioning United as contenders for second place at this stage of the season, highlights a vast improvement from a year ago.
Their primary target will still be to win as many games as possible in order to secure a top-four place, but make no mistake about it, the chance to get one over on their neighbours at The Etihad will only motivate them even more.