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Friday, July 10, 2020

Manchester United Can Still Secure Champions League Qualification, But They Must Be Smarte

Manchester United’s players must remain focused.
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It has not been plain sailing since the return of football in mid-to-late June, with Manchester United winning two out of their three opening matches.

In what was always going to be a glorified friendly in their return to competitive action against Tottenham Hotspur, Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s men have shown inconsistencies in their successive matches versus Sheffield United and Norwich City.

While the Red Devils performed to the high standard expected of them against Chris Wilder’s side, the match versus Norwich was poor in most departments. Lethargic runners around the prolific Bruno Fernandes meant a very frustrating day, coupled up with Norwich’s deep, low block that had their whole team behind the ball.

The reason Fernandes was brought in was to overcome situations where defences and teams needed to be unlocked with a nifty through ball. The Portugal international has shown he is a differential in this department, providing he has the right, intuitive members of the squad around him.

For the best part of the match, it was an uphill battle, with Fernandes on a different, higher wave length than his offensive team-mates. It was not until Paul Pogba and Mason Greenwood came on to give some additional support where Manchester United looked most threatening, eventually scoring the winner minutes from the end of extra time and avoiding a penalty shootout.

If Manchester United are to secure a top four position, which means overcoming Chelsea or Leicester City, who sit five and six points ahead of them respectively, Solskjær’s side are going to have to find an edge and a level of consistency they simply have not shown this season.

The arrivals of Odion Ighalo and Fernandes have certainly given the club a sense of rejuvenation from January onwards, which was cut short due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The Red Devils need to produce this top level of productivity in their remaining seven Premier League

matches, which includes third place Leicester.

Aside from the Foxes, Manchester United play a variety of teams mixed in the relegation battle. However, although those teams are deservedly down the bottom of the table, the Red Devils will understand that they have more to play for and will be hungry for points on the board.

With these clubs searching for goals, it might just open them up and be susceptible to counter-attacking football, which has been a huge strength of Solskjær’s since arriving into the job. With Anthony Martial, Dan James, Marcus Rashford and Greenwood, Man United have the tools to punish any defence on the break.

The key element in all of this is their concentration over the next month. It is a huge four weeks of football that Man United need to endure, but could be the difference between a fourth and a fifth place finish.

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