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    What is Manchester United's best chance of Champions League football next season?

    After a comfortable 2-0 win away at West Bromwich Albion a recently written off Manchester United find themselves just four points off fourth place Arsenal and a Champions League spot. They are also in very good form as they are unbeaten in 10 games in all competitions and haven't lost in the league since the 4-0 mauling at the hands of the front runners and favourites for the title Chelsea.

    The Christmas period is always crucial in the Premier League campaign and although results are always difficult to predict on the face of it the games are not too tough on Mourinho's men. They face Sunderland, Middlesborough and Hull all at home with a struggling West ham their solitary away game in the next four fixtures. With all of these four fixtures very winnable and Arsenal floundering could united be in the top four after the festive period?

    Before the season started the red devils where many peoples favourites for the title with the acquisitions of Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrihimovic, Eric Bailly and most importantly a proven winning manager in Jose Mourinho. After a shaky start with a lot of draws they seem to be finding their feet and players like Ibrihimovic, Carrick and Mkhitaryan showing excellent form. The latter has recently been injured but Mourinho has given welcome news that he may return on boxing day which is a huge boost as he is clearly going to be a key component if the team are to attain a top four finish.

    There is still a lot of competition for a top four spot as Spurs will also fancy their chances and realistically the top six are going to be clear of the chasing pack. That leaves two teams that are going to miss out on a Champions League spot. Mourinho will know the importance of gaining entry into the champions league next season financially and to attract more top talent with Antoine Griezmann mooted as a signing in the summer.

    Whilst the top four in the Premier League is definitely going to be an aim for Mourinho will he see the Europa League as possibly an easier option to gain entry to the Champions League next season? The draw for the round of 32 has taken place and Utd have drawn St Etienne who are sitting in mid table in ligue 1. The reds will go into the game as big favourites and they are expected to brush St Etienne aside and reach the last 16 of the competition.

    With Sevilla reaching the last 16 of the Champions League and so not in the Europa League this season there will be a different winner of the competition for the first time in 3 years and as it stands I would have to say that Man Utd have to be favourites as there are few European big hitters left in the competition. The likes of Roma, Villarreal, Bilbao and Spurs seem to be the strongest threats in the competition and Mourinho will have a decision to make when the competition recommences in February. That is whether to play the strongest eleven available to him in the competition or to rest players and focus on the league campaign. Much will obviously depend on their league position come mid February with many points up for grabs between now and then.

    With Man Utd already into the league cup semi final and being drawn against Premier League strugglers Hull City this could be a very successful first season for Mourinho who will be looking to add silverware to his already enviable collection. A few weeks ago the pressure was on and now the results are going well for Utd things are looking positive showing just how quickly football changes as Arsenal will testify.

    If this is to be a successful season with Champions League football returning to Old Trafford there is still a lot to do as the other challengers in the Premier League are excellent teams and I would still predict that they will finish just outside the top four. It is also probable that they will have to face an excellent Liverpool side in the League Cup final which would be a massive game with the biggest rivalry in English football reignited at Wembley. There are also a number of possible opponents standing in their way of the Europa final in Stockholm and they will b hoping to avoid the big guns until the latter stages. With Spurs also expected to progress we could have a mouthwatering all English tie later on in the competition which would be excellent as recently English teams have struggled in all European competitions.

    In conclusion I really do think that focusing on the Europa League may be an excellent option for Mourinho especially if they are still outside the top four come February. This may be an unpopular opinion as the Premier League is always seen as top priority however a team as big as Man Utd do not want to be out of the Champions League any longer and I am sure fans would sacrifice finishing sixth or seventh for winning the Europa League. Mourinho will be looking to strengthen the squad in the summer and I would expect them to be a force to be reckoned with next season in all competitions including the Champions League if they managed to qualify putting them back amongst the heavyweights of European football.

    James Kendrick
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    Item Reviewed: What is Manchester United's best chance of Champions League football next season? Rating: 5 Reviewed By: James Kendrick
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