Jose Mourinho will split opinion on his tenure so far at Manchester United. Currently sitting in fifth place and with games in hand, United are clinging onto the hope that they can sneak into the top four and gain qualification for the Champions League next season.
21 games unbeaten is certainly not to be sniffed at. Too many draws though have put pay to a real title challenge in the Portuguese boss’ maiden season. With no Champions League football again next season, United would struggle to attract the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Aubameyang and various others that the Reds have been linked with across various media outlets.
Next up for United are Belgian giants, Anderlecht. A Semi Final place beckons for the victors of this tie. One step closer to automatic qualification to the group stages of the Champions League. Financially, the loss of this competition, would hardly put a dent in the mega money making machine which is Old Trafford. But attracting the stars to build the manager’s own team, may become a little trickier.
Potentially, United have thirteen cup finals left this season. Two legs in both Quarter Final and Semi Final of the Europa League, before the final itself, all wedged in between United’s last eight Premier League games. Four of them eight games are playing teams in the top five. Chelsea are the first to visit Old Trafford this weekend. The table topping Blues will be looking to complete a league double over United. Mourinho will no doubt be wanting to put one over on his former employers. Trips to City, Arsenal and Spurs mean United really have it all in their own hands. Win these games and a top four place will be pretty much be guaranteed. Failure to do so will rely on the winning of the Europa League. United have never won this trophy. In this current format or the old Uefa Cup, no Manchester United captain has ever held aloft this European piece of silverware.
21 games unbeaten, this will stand for nothing if come the start of next season, United are not able to dine at the top table of European Football. For Mourinho, his season starts now. Get this next eight weeks right and he will go down as a United great with the fans already. Get it wrong, and pressure to challenge next season will be excruciating. As Sir Alex once famously said, ” its squeaky bum time ” . Whoever blinks first loses. Jose, please don’t blink just yet.