Leaders Chelsea are next on Manchester United’s hit. The teams clash in tonight’s late game at Stamford Bridge and the Red Devils will go into today’s crucial fixture brimming with confidence after impressive wins against Man City, Liverpool and Tottenham, and Jose Mourinho should surely be a worried man.
Man Utd legend Eric Cantona said this week that the derby win last Sunday over their noisy neighbours proves that the Red Devils are capable of winning the EPL title next season, and I cannot agree more with the Frenchman.
Old Trafford found its voice last week. For the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in May 2013, the stadium was “rocking". We looked like the Man Utd of old, confident, sleek and instilling fear in our opponents.
“Now they are the kings of the city,” said Cantona, who won four titles for United between 1992 and 1997. “Sometimes you have a season when you lose games and you finish fourth or fifth. Next year they can win,” Cantona was quoted as saying on BBC Sport.
Man Utd’s first home derby victory since 2011 moved them four points ahead of the defending league champions and on course for a return to Champions League football next season. Van Gaal’s target this season has always been for a return to Europe’s elite competition and with qualification now almost a sure thing, the Red Devils can go into the encounter with Chelsea full of spark.
In Wayne Rooney, Man Utd have a captain who is leading by example and loving his football at the moment. Man-of-the-Match last week, Ashley Young, looks like a player reborn and will surely be recalled by England manager Roy Hodgson when he names his next squad for international matches.
John Terry and Co will not be looking forward to facing a revitalised Marouane Fellaini, who was a constant torn to the Citizen’s defence last week. Add in the fantastic form of Juan Mata, the classy Ander Herrera and the reassuring presence of Daley Blind and Michael Carrick, things are looking up for Man Utd.
Even without striker Diego Costa, Chelsea will be a tough nut to crack especially in fortress Stamford Bridge. The Blues will have to perform better than their fortunate last-gasp win last week against a luckless QPR side, so expect Mourinho’s men to be riled up today.
Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas will be key for Chelsea as they remain on-course to win the EPL title. Chelsea know that a draw today will suffice and we all know how Mourinho will set his team out to not lose this game. A score draw is my call for this game.
Elsewhere, the pressure is on Manuel Pellegrini as his Man City outfit face a must-win clash against Sam Allardyce’s West Ham tomorrow. The knives have been out for the Chilean whose team have lost four succesive away games and surely their Qatari owners must be feeling the heat especially after investing heavily in the team. With news that Borussia Dortmund’s Jurgen Klopp deciding to step down at the end of the season, the bookmakers have installed the German as a firm favourite to take over the job at the Etihad.
West Ham have nothing to play for and come into this game on a run of only one win in 10 games. Expect Sergio Aguero to bag a couple of goals as City ease the pressure on Pellegrini with a comfortable win.
Another highlight of this weekend’s fixtures is the FA Cup semifinals. The two Wembley encounters see’s Arsenal take on Championship side Reading today while Liverpool tackle Aston Villa tomorrow.
Along with Man Utd, Arsene Wenger’s side are also on form and on top of their game. The Gunners have won eight games on the trot and look too strong for a Reading outfit who are struggling in 18th position in their division, having won only once in 10 games. This looks like an easy win for Arsenal, so expect them to be in the finals come May 30.
Arsenal’s likely opponents in the finals will be a tough call. Liverpool are favourites to make the final, with a potential fairy-tale script to be written on Steven Gerrard’s dream sendoff in his last game for the club on his birthday. But Brendan Rodgers’ side will be wary of a Villa team who will be full of confidence after recent positive results. Christian Benteke will surely be their dangerman upfront and in Tim Sheerwood, the Claret and Blue Army have a manager who will be eager to prove himself. I forsee goals in this match and a potential “Cupset” with Benteke and Gabriel Agbonlahor getting on the scoresheet.