The Europa League has provided United fans with something resembling a welcome break from the disappointment of the Premier League campaign. After the now typical draw against Swansea City last weekend, attention turned to continental conquests, and the first European semi-final involving Manchester United in six seasons. Celta Vigo stands between José Mourinho’s side and the Europa League final, but for the moment the focus comes back to the Premier League and Sunday’s fixture against Arsenal.
“Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future,” Niels Bohr, physicist.
“No serious futurist deals in prediction. These are for television oracles and newspaper astrologers,” Alvin Toffler, author.
“I’m going to make a prediction – it could go either way,” Ron Atkinson, soothsayer.
There was little excuse for Manchester United’s performance last Sunday as José Mourinho’s side slipped to yet another home draw, this time against Swansea City. Yet, for an increasingly unpredictable manager, finger-pointing was once again the order of the day as the Reds’ top-four hopes took a potentially terminal blow. There is room for improvement, with Mourinho taking his injury-hit squad to Spain on Thursday to face Celta Vigo in the Europa League semi-final. In a decidedly mixed campaign, the sweetener of more silverware remains.
When Manchester United drew Celta Vigo in the Europa League semi-final it had fans looking at Wikipedia, checking Whoscored for data, and reaching for the long-lost Galician guide books. Celta may not be one of La Liga’s giants, nor doing particularly well this season, but it is a team that has dispatched some decent quality opposition in this year’s competition. Celta is also the club that stands between United and a date in Stockholm at the end of May – and possible Champions League qualification.
It is a little under three years since Swansea City arrived at Old Trafford and embarrassed Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United side in the Dutchman’s first competitive fixture in charge . It wouldn’t be the last time the Dutchman was humiliated while at United, but it is a result that remains lodged in the memory, as if to underline the mediocrity that has engulfed the club since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement. It is almost 12 months since the Iron Tulip’s tenure at United came to end, and there are plenty of reasons to believe progress is being made. Signs that it hasn’t come fast enough as well.
Legend goes that a broken fax machine was all that kept David De Gea from his purported dream move to Real Madrid back in 2015. The detailed account is, naturally, slightly more complex with documents being sent right at the very end of the transfer window and in the end not being processed through FIFA channels in time. Both clubs played the blame game before De Gea, surprisingly, signed a four-year deal. Now he may finally be on his way.
From the dark days of three consecutive September defeats, to an unbeaten run few thought was possible, Manchester United’s big game manager is in full Mourinho Mode. Unforgiving, unrelenting and, now, unhindered by a rigid philosophy or game-plan, fighting on two fronts to reach next season’s Champions League.
Fluid and efficient aren’t adjectives often used to describe Manchester United, at least not this season, but it would be a fine summary of Sunday afternoon’s win over Burnley. Mourinho’s men barely had a moment to digest Thursday night’s Europa League before making the relatively short journey north to Burnley. Save for injuries, it was a good week domestically and in Europe.
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.