There seemed to be a deadly silence at Old Trafford on Sunday evening, as Darren Bent headed home Fulham’s stoppage-time equaliser at Manchester United to earn the away side a 2-2 draw. Everybody connected with United did not know what had hit them.
The reigning champions have become so accustomed to scoring late goals, that conceding one never even entered the United mind-set in stoppage-time. However, this is Manchester United under David Moyes.
They are uncertain, unsteady at the back and seem to lack a cutting edge going forward, despite the presence of Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie in their team.
The draw with Fulham meant that the reigning champions are now nine points behind fourth-place Liverpool and a massive 15 points behind league leaders Chelsea, with just 13 Premier League games remaining this season.
If results go against the Red Devils in the midweek fixtures then they could find themselves 12 points behind fourth-place and struggling to even challenge for the Champions League places this season. A lot of Manchester United fans were realistic about United’s first season under David Moyes.
However, I believe the least they expected was the Red Devils to finish in the top four. That objective could be vastly harmed by results of Wednesday night’s fixtures.
Manchester United visit second place Arsenal, while Liverpool visit bottom of the table Fulham, subject to the stewards not using the tube to get to Craven Cottage that is!
Fulham may be buoyed by that draw at United on Sunday, but the players worked themselves into the ground, so they may also be exhausted against the free-scoring Reds team. Liverpool meanwhile played in the early fixture on Saturday and had the game won in the first 20 minutes, so should be far fresher.
Both Arsenal and United head into Wednesday night’s clash after disappointing results. However, Arsenal could go into the clash four points behind Chelsea and know that they have to claim maximum points in the race for the title.
Arsene Wenger’s side will be determined to do just that and the fact that Gunners were so badly beaten by Liverpool on Saturday could work against United, as they will be fired-up and looking to bounce straight back with a win.
It must be unthinkable to Manchester United fans that they will not be in the Champions League next season. United has been a mainstay of the top four, or even three for the whole of the Premier League era.
I do not think many Manchester United fans were aware that there were positions below the top three. They have become that accustomed to finishing in the top three positions. Under David Moyes they have even seen the bottom half of the team and it is not pretty from a United point of view.
For so long Manchester United have been the envy of the English top-flight. Fans from other clubs have looked on as the Red Devils have dominated the Premier League era. It now looks like it is somebody else’s turn to become a dominant force in the top-flight.
All those United fans who are calling for David Moyes to be sacked are wasting their time and voices. Moyes is at your club for the long-term and it is very unlikely that he will leave his high-profile job at any point in the near future.
The Scot has a major rebuilding job on his hands at Old Trafford in the summer. Nemanja Vidic will leave and the likes of Patrice Evra and Rio Ferdinand look set to join the Serbian through the United exit door.
The money from the Champions League has helped make Manchester United one of the biggest clubs in the world in the past two decades. However, the way that the team are playing it looks unlikely that they will be experiencing another Champions League windfall next season.
Manchester United face an uphill struggle to get into the top four this season. Not only will the United players have to start putting in better performances, they will also have to rely on in-form Liverpool to slip-up.
Then there is also Tottenham and Everton above them. All three teams chasing that fourth spot are unlikely to slip-up, which means that United are unlikely to make the top four. The Red Devils are currently odds of 13/2 to make the top four this season.
I really cannot see United making the top four this season. The Red Devils just need to finish as high in the Premier League table as they can this season and rebuild the team in the summer. David Moyes has a massive job on his hands, but nobody ever said it was going to be easy. Did they Mr Moyes?
Could midweek results kill-off United’s Champions League hopes?