Manchester United’s hopes of finishing in the top four appeared pretty slim before the weekend; those chances now appear non-existent, writes James Clancy.
Many observers have warned of a late charge from Manchester United up the Premier League table. If the evidence of Sunday’s 2-2 draw against Fulham is anything to go by, then that charge looks highly unlikely this season.
As fans get more and more frustrated with the club’s performances and results, would limping over the line to a seventh placed finish really be such a bad thing?
Finishing below Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool, and Tottenham and Everton, while almost sacrilegious a year ago and unthinkable as recently as Christmas, might not be so terrible in the long run.
It is not the done thing for any club, let alone Manchester United, to write off the end of a season. But with the top four gone, do they really need to be qualifying for the Europa League?
Do they want to be traveling to somewhere like Riga for a July qualifier when they could be in the United States playing Barcelona and Chelsea in friendlies and pushing up their stock price? Do they want to be flying back from Bratislava on a Friday morning, looking ahead to a Sunday Premier League clash?
Liverpool are not the finished article – their 1-1 draw at West Brom a week ago attests to that – but they are head and shoulders above United. Moyes has a long way to go to get his team playing like Brendan Rodgers’ firebrands.
As if things were not bad enough for Moyes at the moment, Roberto Martinez has really taken Everton on to the next level this season, but a club run on such a tight budget is always likely to struggle when injuries to key personnel take hold. Spurs moved within three points of Liverpool, which is testament to their staying power.
Both Tottenham and Everton have consistently proven to have more about them than United and look almost certain to finish ahead of Moyes’ men – most likely in fifth and sixth position respectively. Finishing seventh would be an undignified showing for any defending champion, but the Scot is planning a major reconstruction at Old Trafford and will be given time to put it right.
Up to 10 players could be shown the exit this summer, with an array of talent being linked to the club as Moyes attempts to put Manchester United back among Europe’s elite.
For now, Moyes will continue to improve United’s fortunes, and while a seventh-placed finish would be considered a failure even by the man himself, it would only represent the first step on a long road to success.
Pundit Arena, James Clancy.