Manchester United has dragged itself throughout the campaign, maintaining the fifth position on Barclays Premier League points table which was clenched away by West Ham after United crumbled against the Baggies in their most recent fixture.
Van Gaal, who was quiet for most of the season about his target spot on the points table, has claimed that a top four spot for United is up for grabs if United can replicate their season’s performance in the upcoming fixtures. Whether audacious or prophetic, the Dutch manager’s words’ certainty will be measured once we get to the other end of the line.
But one thing is crystal clear; it is not going to be an easy ride for the Devils if they want in on Champions League Qualification. On the other hand, a win in Europa League will also see United go through to the UCL, but United will have to pull off extraordinary performances to become Europa League Champions.
Here is an analysis of the fixtures with a bit of prediction on where Van Gaal XI will be standing at the end of March:
Since Europa League is second to UCL regarding preference, the biggest misconception is that this title is easy to come by. No, Europa League is as tough as Champions League if not harder because clubs playing in this tournament are usually the ones that rumble in Champions League almost every other year, if not more regular.
Van Gaal’s limping Manchester United squad faces a daunting task of meeting with Liverpool in the Round of 16. Although Liverpool has not posed too many threats against a strong United defence this season, the Devils will not take Liverpool any lightly, especially after coming off a 1-0 defeat to West Brom.
Two Europa fixtures, home and away, are scheduled for the two clubs in March while Manchester United lead on aggregate against the Reds this season with a scoreline of 4-1.
If Van Gaal’s side progresses further to the quarterfinals, things get dirtier because clubs like FC Basel, title defenders Sevilla FC, and Borussia Dortmund, who drew with Bayern Munich recently, cannot be vanquished easily.
English Premier League:
The only real chance of making it to the Champions League next season lies in the Premier League for the Devils. Manchester United’s four-match winning streak was put to a halt by West Brom, relinquishing the fifth spot to West Ham United with a two point gap.
Their misery does not end here since Liverpool are three points behind the Old Trafford giants with a match still to play which they missed because of a scheduling conflict.
United’s only BPL fixture is against Manchester City, who look sharp after drilling Aston Villa with 4-0. So, if Van Gaal wants to get back to winning way and gain some momentum in the top-tier British league, City game is a must-win.
An FA Cup bout against West Ham is likely to go down as a bad memory for the Devils because they have to sacrifice one tournament to concentrate on the other two if they want a place in Champions League next year.
So, it is a squishy situation to be in for United, and with a good month of March, United can get the fire they require to go back to winning ways and end up somewhere close to where Van Gaal predicted. Certainly, they have the quality and valour to achieve what they desire.