Prior to the Premier League restart, people were skeptical about Manchester United earning a top four finish and an automatic place in the Champions League next season. Two games after returning to English football, it looks inevitable that it’ll come to fruition.
When the season was postponed in March due to COVID-19, the club was missing two of their most important players due to injury; midfielder Paul Pogba was dealing with an ankle injury while forward Marcus Rashford was suffering from severe back pain.
There is no denying that both Pogba and Rashford are extremely talented, and the team has a better chance of winning every time they step on to the pitch together. If the season had not been shut down due to the pandemic, it would have been far less likely that the rest of the squad could obtain a top four finish in the league.
During the January transfer window, the club made a big purchase and signed midfielder Bruno Fernandes, who spent the last two-and-a-half seasons at Portugese Club Sporting CP.
In only his second game in a United shirt, the Portugese international assisted a Harry Maguire header in a pivotal 2-0 victory at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea. It was clear from the start that Fernandes was going to bring creativity and energy to the midfield when the club needed it the most.
When it was announced that the Premier League season was going to be resumed in the middle of June, Manchester United was fifth in the league table. If they wanted any chance to move up in standings, they would need to get off to a good start when play resumed.
In their first game in over three months, United were up against Tottenham Hotspur. This was set up to be a clash between two of the biggest clubs in England; Spurs took the upper hand early.
Dutch international Steven Bergwijn opened the scoring in the 27th minute after dashing through the United defense and slotting the ball past goalkeeper David De Gea. United had a ton of trouble breaking down the compact Spurs defense until they introduced two players into the game.
18-year old Mason Greenwood was one of the players who was subbed on for United in the middle of the second half. The youngster has been a consistent player for the club this season scoring 5 goals in 24 league appearances.
The second substitution was Pogba, who had yet to make a league appearance since December 26th against Newcastle United.
Once Greenwood and Pogba came onto the field, things suddenly changed for United. They put waves of pressure on the Spurs defense, and were finally able to break through in the 81st minute.
Pogba had the ball on the wing when he began to make a run towards the touchline. Spurs defender Eric Dier was marking him at the time, and the French international knew he had the advantage on the inexperienced center-half, who is typically used as a defensive midfielder. Pogba used his incredible ball skills to lure the defender in, drawing a penalty.
Fernandes slotted home the penalty to tie the game at one, and that’s the way the game ended. The last 30 minutes of the game proved that when Pogba is fully fit, he is one of the best midfielders in the world.
The club’s next fixture was just as important in their hopes of playing European football next season. United were going up against newly promoted Sheffield United, who had exceeded expectations and were hoping for a top six finish in the league.
Sheffield United were coming off a 3-0 defeat against Newcastle United, but still posed a dangerous threat heading into their game against United. In the reverse fixture, both teams scored plenty of goals in a 3-3 draw.
From the beginning of the game, it was evident that United were going to control the game and initiate waves of pressure on the Sheffield defense.
Inside of ten minutes, United took the lead through French forward Anthony Martial; his opener was just the start of a memorable day in his club career.
Manchester United were able to defeat Sheffield United 3-0 with all three goals being scored by Anthony Martial. The third goal was scored through fantastic combination play from Pogba, Fernandes, and Rashford, ending with a gorgeous chip from Martial to seal all three points for the team.
With seven games to go, United are currently trailing third placed Leicester City by six points and fourth placed Chelsea by five points.
Of their last seven fixtures, only two of their opponents are currently sitting in the top half of the league table. One of those fixtures is against Leicester City, in which United will travel to the King Power Stadium on the last day of the season. If United are able to get all three points, it can go a long way for their hopes of surpassing Leicester in the standings.
Through two games since the league restart, Manchester United have shown they are still one of best teams in all of England. If they are able to continue their good form for the last seven games, finishing in a Champions League spot is bound to happen.
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