Manchester United's run-in is not as easy as it looks

Manchester United have got themselves within three points of third-placed Leicester with six Premier League games remaining.

They do not face a side currently in the division’s top half until travelling to the King Power Stadium to face the Foxes on the final day of the season.

That seemingly gentle run-in has raised excitement that United will finish with a flourish, but a look back at how Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side got on in the respective reverse fixtures earlier this season shows it may have more of a sting in the tail than it appears at first glance.

United’s struggles laid bare

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United fans will know that their side’s problems have largely come against the so-called ‘lesser’ Premier League clubs, but the extent of the issue is laid bare when looking at their forthcoming opponents.

Bournemouth, Aston Villa, Southampton, Crystal Palace and West Ham lie in wait before that potentially crucial Leicester trip.

United have already lost to Bournemouth, Palace and West Ham, having drawn with Villa and the Saints also.

That’s two points collected from a possible 15 against teams many United fans will see no issue in swatting aside en route to European football’s top table again next season.

Are things different now?

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The obvious riposte is that United didn’t have Bruno Fernandes for any of those fixtures and only had Paul Pogba for the 2-1 loss at home to Palace in August.

There are signs of a different United now; a more confident United, capable of breaking down deep defences and riding high on the back of two straight 3-0 league victories.

That confidence has to translate into momentum and continued good performances. Too often at United, good results have led to complacency in recent years.

A run-in which looks gentle on paper actually throws up opponents who United have not beaten this season, with Bournemouth, Villa and West Ham especially likely to be scrapping for their lives at this stage of the campaign.

There is no room for letting up.

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Sam Preston is an NCTJ gold standard news and sports journalist who studied with the Press Association. He also has a 2:1 law with French law degree from the University of Birmingham, which included a year studying at Bordeaux Montaigne University. He is an FA Level 1 football coach who appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show in 2018 and has also written digital football content and match-day programme pieces for Colchester United, Mansfield Town and Stockport County.