Last year when David de Gea spilt the ball in the crucial game against Chelsea in the Premier League, Marcos Alonso pounced on it and found the back of the net. The goal not only strengthened Chelsea’s chances of finishing in the top four but it also ended Manchester United’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League. The good run of form of the Old Trafford outfit came to a halt in April after a series of great victories under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Fast forward to this season, Manchester United had a series of ups and downs under but have found their mojo since the signings of Bruno Fernandes and Odion Ighalo in January. But It will be wrong if the revival is solely credited to the two new signings as a few other players have been a revelation in the 2019-20 season.
However, the chances of Manchester United failing to finish in the top four cannot be ruled out once the season resumes. Despite currently being just a place and three points adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea in the Premier League table, here are three reasons why the Red Devils can miss out on Champions League football next season.
#1 Over-reliance on big names
It is common to see a team struggle when they miss their key players. However, most teams recover by deploying other players and overcoming the issues. However, it has not been the case for Manchester United. They have struggled when a few key players have been absent and it shows how heavily the Red Devils depend on them.
The over-reliance has been observed when Paul Pogba missed a series of games in the Premier League owing to his injury. Despite finding alternatives in the midfield, Manchester United are a different team without their World Cup winning midfielder.
Also, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer fielded Marcus Rashford in a Premier League fixture against Wolverhampton Wanderers in February despite knowing that the English international could get seriously injured. And Rashford did get injured and was ruled out for a considerable time. Manchester United also struggled when Anthony Martial was injured at the early parts of the season.
A potential injury to any of the big names when the season resumes could be a serious threat to Manchester United’s top four chances.
#2 Tactical predictability
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been guilty of making Manchester United play in a similar style against multiple teams without getting the desired results. Most Manchester United fans know that when they are playing against quality opponents, the Premier League giants prefer to sit back and break on the counter, while when they are up against less fancied teams, they play the possession game.
Manchester United had 27.7% possession compared to Manchester City’s 72.3% in the Manchester derby in March. But against Wolverhampton Wanderers in February, Manchester United enjoyed 63.7% possession compared to Wolves’ 26.3%. The Red Devils won the Manchester derby 2-0 but had to settle for a goalless draw against Wolves.
This predictability could prove to be dangerous for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team when the season resumes. Manchester United have only one game left against the Premier League’s traditional top six and although Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba possess the qualities to carve open defences, it will be difficult for the Red Devils to seal a top four spot if they fail to score against the so-called “small teams”.
#3 Lack of options
Despite Manchester United signing two players during the winter transfer window, they still lack quality options on the bench. Although the midfield has played a major role in the resurgence, there are chinks in Manchester United’s armoury.
Until Bruno Fernandes arrived in January, the Red Devils struggled to break down low-block defenses in the Premier League as they lacked a proper attacking midfielder. The worrisome form of Andres Periera and Jesse Lingard provides Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with very little options on that front.
In the striking department too, Manchester United are left with teenager Mason Greenwood and loanee Odion Ighalo. Although Ighalo has been a great addition and Greenwood scoring 13 goals across all competitions this season, Manchester United can’t just rely on the duo for goalscoring responsibilities.
Manchester United seriously need to be at the top of their game for the remainder of the season if they harbour any hopes of finishing in the Premier League’s top four and playing in the Champions League next season.
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