Manchester United want to end the 2017-18 Premier League on a strong note, there is no doubt about that. And if we look at their recent results, it turns out they have been doing exactly that.
The Red Devils are coming off an impressive 3-2 comeback win over Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, and they have also registered wins over Chelsea and Liverpool in recent weeks. One of the biggest knocks during Jose Mourinho’s tenure with the team was the fact that he was unable to win against Top 6 opposition, but that does not seem to be the case anymore. However, the season is far from over. And United must embrace their upcoming challenges to finish the campaign strongly.
Let’s be honest here: Manchester City WILL win the Premier League title. But United have the upper hand in the race for second place (71 points, +38 GD), and that is where they should focus. They are not alone on that race, though. Both Liverpool (67 points, +40) and Tottenham (67 points, +37) look like the team’s biggest contenders to remove United from that precious second place in the standings. So, what that in mind, we should look at which team represents the biggest challenge for United down the stretch.
Taking a look at both team’s schedules
First, let’s look at Liverpool’s remaining schedule. They have only five games left in their EPL campaign, but they seem quite easy: Bournemouth, Stoke City and Brighton at home, and West Bromwich Albion and Chelsea on the road. Arguably the toughest ones seem to be the road matches against an Albion side that will try to avoid relegation, and against a Chelsea team that… well, it’s Chelsea and can’t be taken for granted even if they have not had a very good season under Antonio Conte.
On the other hand, Tottenham’s schedule looks a bit more packed with six games left. The Spurs have only two away games left, against Brighton and West Bromwich, and four home contests: against Manchester City, Watford, Newcastle United, and Leicester City.
Are both teams focusing entirely on the Premier League?
Both teams, however, have outside things to worry about. Liverpool are set to reach the UEFA Champions League semifinals and there is no doubt that it would become the team’s priority if that’s the case, so they might field an alternative side here and there to avoid overusing their starters. And plus, Mohamed Salah might miss a few more games since he’s dealing with a muscular injury. Liverpool needs to have him as fit as possible down the stretch.
Meanwhile, the Spurs got Harry Kane back, but the Spurs will take every precaution with him. After all, he is England’s top striker and it would not be the best idea to risk him considering finishing second or fourth gives the team a Champions League berth either way. And they also have the FA Cup semifinal against United looming in the horizon.
United’s biggest rival is… United itself
The Spurs have a game in hand, seem to have the easier schedule, and do not have the European commitments Liverpool have. But even if Tottenham and/or Liverpool become dangerous opponents on the race for the second place in the standings, United’s biggest rivals are themselves. They currently hold a four-point advantage over the aforementioned opponents and depend solely on themselves to get the job done.
Only time will tell whether they finish second or not. But this wil be a true test of the team’s character going forward.