Former Celtic striker Andy Walker believes that Manchester United will finish ahead of Liverpool and reach the top four this season.
It was thought by many back in early December that Jose Mourinho‘s men, nine points off fourth spot having managed just two Premier League wins since September, would miss out on a top four spot.
However, a 17-game unbeaten run has taken Man United to within six points off fourth spot with two games in hand heading into the closing stages of the season.
And Walker, speaking on Sky Sports, believes that United have what it takes to claim a Champions League spot this season.
“I think they will [finish in the top four],” he said. “I think they’ll squeeze Liverpool out. That’s the most important thing now.”
He was also quick to question Michael Oliver’s decision to hand Ander Herrera a red card during United’s 1-0 defeat to Chelsea in the FA Cup quarter final on Monday night and explained why he felt sorry for Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
“If you’re a referee and you can keep it 11 v 11, I prefer that way of refereeing,” he added.
“If a player does something outrageous by all means send him off but I don’t think Herrera did enough to merit two yellows and a red card.
“I do accept there was a targeting of Hazard with two or three other players but it was an FA Cup quarter-final, there was a huge crowd there and the stakes are high.
“I really felt sorry for Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who was the guy who suffered. He quickly had to be substituted and it changed the whole complexion of the game. It was a great pity.”
Mkhitaryan being taken off effectively nullified our attacking threat. Without him, we had to resort to long balls over the top and hope Marcus Rashford‘s pace could cause Chelsea problems which it did but he couldn’t sustain that amount of running for the full 90 minutes unsurprisingly. The red card really did change the whole complexion of the game in Chelsea’s favour.
These next few weeks will essentially decide whether United enjoy an enthralling end to the campaign or simply descend into anonymity, away from the Champions League spots, just like last season.
United have four Premier League games over the next month: Middlesbrough away, home games against West Bromwich Albion and Everton, followed by a trip to Sunderland.
If Mourinho’s men claim 12 points from those games they will, without doubt, start to mingle with the top four going into their clash with Chelsea, as opposed to awkwardly sitting in sixth for the 78th week in a row.
Anything less, however, would see United drift away, this time on a terminal basis, left with the Europa League as their only avenue for Champions League football next season.