Like a number of clubs around them, Manchester United have more than a passing interest in the issues with neighbours and rivals Manchester City. If the Citizens’ appeal against their European ban fails, the final Champions League place will go to the fifth-placed side and the Red Devils could well be the ones to benefit.
It might not be an ideal way to qualify for Europe’s top club competition but United’s resurgence may just seem to help them squeeze into the top four. It’s fair to say that the Red Devils have been transformed in recent weeks and the club’s stubborn faith in manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looks to be finally paying off.
What are the Chances?
The sportsbooks don’t agree with our theory and if we look at the latest odds on the Champions League places, Manchester United are fourth favourites – not including Liverpool who has already qualified – behind Chelsea who occupied the fourth spot at the start of March. Frank Lampard’s Blues are currently priced at 3/4 while United can be picked up at around 87/50 and that’s a significant gap.
Based on those figures, it would suggest that Manchester United would need to rely on City’s demise to make it into the UCL but there are reasons to suggest that odds of 87/50 offer some serious value. If we look at the form guide over the last six Premier League matches, the Red Devils are the fourth-best performing team while Chelsea is down in eighth. That’s not exactly a gaping chasm but if United can maintain their change in fortunes, fourth place is within their reach.
The Difference Maker
One man doesn’t make a team but in the case of Bruno Fernandes, he comes pretty close. The Portuguese midfielder arrived from Sporting Lisbon in January and it’s no coincidence that Manchester United’s results have improved while he’s been in the team.
Fernandes is, to use classic football parlance, a box-to-box midfielder. That is to say that the Portuguese international can have a positive effect at both ends of the pitch – breaking down opposition attacks while contributing to his team’s most advanced positions. Overall, the player doesn’t have a great goals-to-games ratio but in his first eight matches in England, Fernandes has found the net on three occasions.
The midfielder will also bring others into the game and his clever free kick in the game against Manchester City, which was converted by Anthony Martial, is an indication as to what he will provide in terms of assists.
When Marcus Rashford sustained a season-ending injury in January, Manchester United were looking at a subdued end to the campaign but Fernandes’ arrival has brought smiles to the faces of Old Trafford fans once again.
In terms of the run-in, the fixture computer has been kind to Manchester United. From April onwards, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men have avoided all of the teams around them and instead, they will face the likes of Brighton, West Ham, Southampton, Aston Villa and Bournemouth.
An upturn in form added to that favourable fixture list makes United a sound bet for that top-four finish.