Even the most passionate sports fans will agree that it was prudent for football authorities to postpone all matches until 3rd April. But Manchester United fans will also lament the timing of the cancellation of fixtures. Sure, there are some positives for the team; notably, a chance for Marcus Rashford to return from injury. However, United were arguably playing their best football since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. Unbeaten since January, a run that saw 29 goals scored and eight clean sheets, as well as progress through to the Europa League (well, almost guaranteed) and FA Cup quarter-finals. United, put simply, were on a roll.
How will the team perform once – if – the season begins again? Well, everyone is in the same boat, of course, but you’d hazard a guess that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will rue the loss of momentum caused by the break. United, as things stood after a resounding 5-0, 1st leg, victory over LASK, were the clear favourites for the Europa League this season, something you can learn more about on the updated MansionBet betting information page for 2020. Again, we have to speculate as to when and how the competition will be completed. But you would assume Solskjaer knew full well that the Europa was the best route to Champions League next season.
Man City Face Champions League Fight
Of course, if the Premier League season was called off today, United would technically be awarded a Champions League spot. They sit 5th in the table but would receive a place in the competition due to UEFA’s two-year ban of Manchester City. Manchester City will contest that ban on appeal in the Court of Arbitration for Sport. But the timing of the appeal itself looks in jeopardy due to the coronavirus outbreak.
In the FA Cup, United were handed a winnable quarter-final draw against struggling Norwich City. Man City are the favourites for that competition, but United would undoubtedly have fancied their chances, having beaten City in the league twice this season. Arsenal and Chelsea also remain in the competition. Still, so strong have United’s performances been against “Big 6” teams this season that nobody would have been unsurprised to see them win the FA Cup for a record-equalling 13th time.
Pogba Will Return to Action This Week
As mentioned, there are some positive points for United if the season resumes in early April. One would hope that Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford will both benefit from the break of a few weeks, giving them extra time to return from injury. Rashford suffered a double stress fracture of the vertebrae in January, so an extended season might see him play some part in the climax for United. Pogba, meanwhile, should return to full training this week, and he has the talent to make a contribution even if his future is in doubt. Both players have the potential to be integral in United’s quest for silverware.
While Solskjaer may lament the fact that United’s momentum has stalled, other Premier League clubs will undoubtedly be glad of the respite. Aston Villa, West Ham and Brighton were showing some hideously bad form in the lead up to the postponement, and their managers will hope to use the time to rejuvenate their players in a bid to avoid relegation.
And, of course, the last word must go to Liverpool. The threat of cancelling the season might seem disastrous, but so emphatic have The Reds been in pursuit of a first title in 30 years that one imagines it will be awarded the trophy regardless.