Why this period is key for United

Wednesday 14 February 2024 09:00

While it is surely too early to start talking about run-ins, what is clear is the next four Premier League gameweeks are going to be very important in terms of the race for a place in next season's Champions League.

Manchester United closed the gap on fifth-placed Aston Villa to five points with the 2-1 victory on Sunday but obviously there is still much work to be done to get into the shake-up.

Only the top four are guaranteed a place in the new-look top competition next term, although fifth may be enough too, depending on the performances of the English sides in the various European competitions in the remainder of 2023/24.

While the Premier League is still fancied to beat off competition from Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga and Ligue 1 to land one of the extra slots, clearly Erik ten Hag will be determined his team simply finish as high as possible in the table.

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The reason the next four gameweeks are so crucial is because Villa travel to Tottenham on 10 March, with the 13:00 GMT kick-off a big one in the jostling for Champions League places.

Another important thing to note is Spurs do not have a match the week after entertaining Wolves due to the fact they were slated to play Chelsea, but their London rivals are instead in Carabao Cup final action against Liverpool at Wembley.

While they will have a game in hand, points on the board can always crank the pressure up.

Of course, the main focus has to be what United can achieve across these next four weeks and beyond.

Four victories on the spin, in all competitions, is an impressive run and, since the turn of the year, we've won five times and drawn once in the six outings.

Erik ten Hag's men travel to Luton Town this weekend before welcoming Fulham to Old Trafford. A tough task at the Etihad Stadium, in the Manchester derby, kicks March off and then there is a Saturday lunchtime home kick-off against Everton.

Each game presents a real challenge but, hopefully, confidence is building and the Reds can post enough points on the board to force ourselves right into the picture for those coveted Champions League places.

It's all to play for - and we have to keep closing that gap on those ahead of us - knowing that the Villa Park game on 10 March will definitely present an opportunity, whatever the outcome.

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17 Feb: Wolves (H) 
Postponed: Chelsea (A)
2 Mar: Crystal Palace (H)
10 Mar: Aston Villa (A) 13:00 GMT

Aston Villa:
17 Feb: Fulham (A)
24 Feb: Nott'm Forest (H)
2 Mar: Luton Town (A) 17:30 GMT
10 Mar: Tottenham (H) 13:00 GMT

18 Feb: Luton Town (A) 16:30 GMT
24 Feb: Fulham (H)
3 Mar: Man City (A) 15:30 GMT
9 Mar: Everton (H) 12:30 GMT

All times 15:00 GMT unless stated.