Manchester United currently sit six points behind fourth placed city rivals Manchester City, who have been derailed from their title challenge by Leicester City. United have not been performing too well this season but have managed to still pick up valuable points.
Manchester City were always the title challengers and have mostly ensured they stay in the mix for it, but the recent defeat to Leicester City has put them six points behind the surprise league leaders. With the in-form Tottenham Hotspur next, it won’t be surprising to City to go further behind in the table.
Pep Guardiola will take over City next season and the world is watching to see if the Spaniard can weave his magic at the Premier League club as he has in Spain and Germany. The goal for Guardiola will obviously be European success, something the club has been after for a while now.
A question that has been raised since the announcement of the former Barcelona player and manager taking over City has been that of how far Manchester United have fallen in recent times, in comparison to their city rivals. The Red Devils haven’t had success ever since Sir Alex Ferguson retired and getting Guardiola represents another incident where City have one-upped their rivals. United naturally need someone to lead them forward in order to go toe-to-toe with Guardiola and prevent City dominating domestically, and possibly in Europe for the next few years.
Manchester United, however, have managed to pick up points and their 3-0 win over Stoke City followed by the 1-1 draw against Chelsea must give them hope of still being in the hunt for the top 4 places in order to stay in the Champions League next season.
Who could United sneak into the top 4 at the expense of? Certainly not Leicester by the look of things. Ranieri’s side is competing for the title and doing so in an emphatic fashion. They hardly look like a team of rookies and have ensured that their underdog status is only used in their advantage.
Spurs are also enjoying a terrific season where Mauricio Pochettino’s work is paying dividends. The former Saints manager has done so well that his name is currently doing rounds in the boardrooms of Chelsea and Manchester United, if reports are to be believed, as both clubs are eyeing the Spurs boss as a possible appointment next season.
This season represented Arsenal’s best hope of a Premier League title and the Gunners looked in firm command for a while, but have also lost way recently, picking up a bunch of draws and dropping unnecessary points. However, they are slowly returning to winning ways and are also boosted by the return of Alexis Sanchez. It looks unlikely that they will be ousted from the top 4 this season as well.
That leaves Manchester City. While on paper, it looks massively unlikely, the team is currently not doing too well. City have incurred heavy losses to Tottenham, Liverpool and recently Leicester City, and we’ve seen that they find teams with high intensity pressing, difficult to deal with. Spurs, with their form and more importantly style of play, do have a great chance of beating Spurs this weekend which could further leave them behind in the table and give United, who face Sunderland, a chance to close the gap on them in the table. A loss could also dent their confidence further and if United can pick up form at the right time, they might see themselves having a genuine chance of beating their city rivals to a top 4 spot.
With it being confirmed that Pellegrini will be going out at the end of the season, they would want to send off their manager on a high. Not to mention the players will also be aware of Guardiola following City games now and subsequently want to impress him. On the flipside, the City players might give up too soon thinking the real work begins only next season.
Could Guardiola, aiming at Champions League glory with City, actually have to begin with the Europa League? Obviously it’s too soon to tell as the league has quite a way to go even now. A lot can still happen as Ranieri himself admitted recently. However, there is little doubt that if Manchester United can capitalize on the recent results and performances, they can very well put plenty of pressure at their city rivals and dump them into the second tier European competition.