Any week where Manchester United face Liverpool is a huge week – but in the wider context of the season, the next three games represent the most important battles of the Reds’ campaign.
United’s clash with Liverpool on Saturday will have a massive bearing on who gains the runners-up spot in the Premier League table. Should United defeat their arch rivals at Old Trafford, then they would be five points clear of Jurgen Klopp’s side – however, were they to be defeated, it could bear massive consequences for them.
With United still facing clashes with both Manchester City and Arsenal before the end of campaign, victory is given much more of a necessity – given that if they falter on Saturday, others are likely to gain ground on them in the race for the top four, and the fixture list isn’t particularly kind to Jose Mourinho’s side come the business-end of the campaign.
Regardless of what happens versus Liverpool, United will then face a huge test on Tuesday when they take on Sevilla in the second-leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie. The scores are currently locked at 0-0, meaning that victory for United would see them join both Liverpool and Manchester City in the quarter-final draw.
However, given their failure to score an away goal in Spain last time out, United simply cannot afford not to win this clash. Were it a score draw, then Sevilla would go through by virtue of the away goals rule – and while United have an excellent European record at Old Trafford in recent seasons, they must take nothing for granted against Vincenzo Montella’s side, given the belief of many supporters that the Champions League quarter-finals should be at least the benchmark for a club of United’s stature.
Then, on March 17th – United’s best opportunity of securing silverware this campaign presents itself in the form of the FA Cup. With many of their rivals having been eliminated from the competition in the early stages, Brighton stand between United and a place at Wembley for the semi-finals. Chelsea face a tough tie with Leicester, while Tottenham face Swansea away.
The game against Brighton will be no easy encounter – with the Seagulls in fantastic form as of late, hammering Swansea in a relegation battle whilst also picking up three points at home to Arsenal recently. If United overcome their fellow Premier League opposition, then it is possible they could draw the victor of Wigan Athletic and Southampton in the next round. With no disrespect to either club, United would certainly fancy their chances of a cup final berth if this situation were to unfold.
Three defeats this week could leave Manchester United’s season in absolute jeopardy – with them potentially being knocked out of the Champions League, FA Cup and losing ground in the race for the top four to their nearest rivals.
Victory in all three ties could see their season hit new heights – a place in the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time since 2014, a cup semi-final awaiting at Wembley, while also securing bragging rights over Liverpool and all but cementing their place in the Premier League top four.
Make no bones about it, the coming seven days are the most important Manchester United have faced in quite some time. They can often prove a different animal at Old Trafford, and the fact that all three games are at home will likely play into Jose Mourinho’s hands.
It is time for United to make Old Trafford the fortress it once was again, and this week represents the perfect opportunity to take massive strides forward, in reaching the glories of old.
Jordan Norris, Pundit Arena.