Manchester United travel to face Crystal Palace on Saturday night off the back of three consecutive defeats but are on the edge of clinching Champions League qualification.
A win over Palace, combined with Liverpool losing to Chelsea, would see United open up a seven point gap with only two games remaining over fifth place and that is something Louis van Gaal will be desperate to achieve.
The worst case scenario of losing a fourth straight game and Liverpool defying the odds to beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge would leave United with only a one point gap above fourth spot ahead of Arsenal’s trip to Old Trafford. That’s a situation United simply cannot afford to let themselves into.
Palace away is a tough game at the best of times but with United now in poor form, it places extra pressure on the game but if a certain Michael Carrick is fit to return, United could get the boost they really need.
His absence is not the sole reason for the downturn in form but his influence on the team is so apparent when he doesn’t play and United are certainly a different beast without him in the starting XI.
United need to win on Saturday and Carrick’s return could be the catalyst Van Gaal is looking for to secure that elusive top four spot.