The lads on the trading floor of Power Tower may appear on the outside as analytical, stat-happy, number-crunching nerds but behind their social awkwardness and fondness for Excel, they know their stuff. That’s why they’re paid the big bucks by the guys who own the abacuses on floor five. According to the trader’s odds. Manchester United are a shot to finish in the top four this season and secure a priceless Champions League spot.
In other words, that gives them a 36 per cent chance in Paddy Power’s eyes of making the top four. Is that right? Or are the Red Devils’ chances marginally slimmer? First and foremost no team in the last 10 years has made the top four after being more than five points behind, so Louis van Gaal’s Red Army are going to have to put in some serious performances to ensure a Champions League spot isn’t just a pipe dream.
In the last decade of Premier League football, six sides have made the top four after being adrift of the Champions League places after 25 games. The worry for United fans is that no side in that time have been able to overcome the six point deficit they currently find themselves in. Arsenal overcame a five point gap in 2008/09 by winning eight and drawing four of their remaining 13 matches – their only loss a 4-1 home defeat to Chelsea. That run gave the Gunners a record of 2.15 points per game – a record Manchester United will have to come close to matching if they were to get Champions League football next year.
The battle for a top four place continues when Louis Van Gaal’s men travel to the Stadium of Light on Saturday, with Sunderland still desperately scrapping for Premier League survival. Manchester United are the red-hot favourites at to pick up all three points, but away to bottom half sides this season, their record reads; Won 1, Drawn 3, Lost 3. About as confidence-inspiring as listening to David Cameron talk about the future of the NHS.
Sunderland are shots to pick up a crucial victory in the fight for top flight football, while the draw might catch your eye at . For United’s top four hopes however, as well as for LVG’s future employment, nothing but a win will do.
The Red Devils can still make inroads on the top four with home clashes with Arsenal and Leicester to come, however trips to White Hart Lane to play title-chasing Tottenham and a Manchester derby at the Etihad Staidum are notably daunting. While Manchester United fans can point to home and away victories against Liverpool, as well as victories at home to Tottenham and away to Southampton, Everton and Watford as positive results, a winless run of three points from a possible 18 in a month during November – December will be defined as the moment they through away a top four spot, and potentially a title challenge.
The teams they faced in that winless run: Leicester (A. 1-1), West Ham (H. 0-0), Bournemouth (A. 2-1), Norwich (H. 1-2), Stoke (A. 2-0), and Chelsea (H. 0-0).