Manchester United’s victory over Burnley on Sunday brings José Mourinho’s side to within a point of Manchester City in the fight for Champions League places. After all, it may be just two from four, with only one of City, United, Liverpool or Arsenal likely to make it to Europe’s top table next season. Thursday’s clash may not come in the midst of a fight for the league title, but it is the most important derby for some time. Victory for Mourinho’s side at the Etihad will push the Reds into the top four for the first time in 2017; a City win might secure Pep Guardiola’s side Champions League football. But who has the advantage on Thursday? Rant investigates…
Manchester United scored victory over Anderlecht and Burnley to continue the push for silverware and Champions League qualification on two fronts. Those victories came at a heavy price, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo struck down by serious knee injuries. Good week or bad week? Ed & Paul discuss.
It was an encounter shaping up like so many other Manchester United matches this season; the home side dominated possession, missed chances and lost a sloppy goal. Until Marcus Rashford stepped forward that is. On Thursday the Reds once again managed to turn a fixture that should have been routine into an evening when fans held their collective breath. In the end, José Mourinho’s side secured passage into the Europa League semi-final at the expense of RSC Anderlecht, thanks largely to the heroics of a 19-year-old with the world at his feet. But as has been the case for United this season, there is little time to stop and reflect as the side returns to league action at Burnley.
It may have taken the best part of eight months, but at long last José Mourinho’s Manchester United finally lived up the manager’s lofty billing. On Sunday, facing a side that once threatened to win the Premier League title with months to spare, Mourinho offered his most impressive performance of his short tenure in Manchester. There was little expectation of victory, but United pulled off an unlikely win. Thursday’s Europa League fixture with Anderlecht is a different proposition again.
What a game, what an approach, what a result! José Mourinho’s ‘tactical masterclass’ in United’s defeat of Chelsea at Old Trafford was, perhaps, the manager’s finest performance as Old Trafford boss. Victory puts United back in the frame for Champions League qualification and buys Mourinho significant credit for the months ahead.
It was archetypal José Mourinho. On Sunday, the Portuguese manager found the perfect tactical riposte to the champions elect at Old Trafford. His Manchester United side emerged victorious after nullifying Chelsea in impressive fashion. Not that Mourinho’s team was on the defensive in victory against Antonio Conte’s side on Sunday. Far from it. The Portuguese manager reimagined his natural and historical inclination towards destructive football in his finest performance as United manager to date.
The phrase Manchester United “left to rue missed chances” has found its way into far too many match reports this season, and Thursday’s Europa League draw with Anderlecht was yet another installment in a long line of wasteful performances. The good news for José Mourinho is that his side has an opportunity to quickly make amends; the bad news is that it involves the visit to Old Trafford of table-topping Chelsea.
Which is the greater priority: finishing inside the Premier League’s top four or winning the Europa League? With each comes Champions League qualification, although only victory in Europe’s second tier competition brings with it silverware. Certainly, the regularly dropped points in the Premier League this season has placed greater emphasis on European competition. The latest side in United’s path – Belgian league leaders Anderlecht.
Manchester United came, Manchester United saw, Manchester United stuck it to David Moyes on Wearside. So, it wasn’t the finest performance, but after two draws at Old Trafford in the past week, three points offer a great fillip to the Reds’ hopes of making the Champions League
Poor Luke Shaw, it appears nothing can go right for the youngster. Even the title of ‘most polarizing Manchester United player’ was snatched from his grasp when Jesse Lingard put pen to paper on a new four-year deal. Then, after helping to rescue a point against Everton, his contribution was round mocked. “Shaw’s Shanked Redemption” was Raphael Honigstein’s response to the full-back’s hacked right-footed effort that led to United’s last minute penalty against the Toffees.