Manchester United Must Step Up Their Play To Remain In The Top-Four Of The EPL?

Manchester United is in danger of finishing outside the top-four in the Barclay’s English Premier League for the second straight season.

United fell into fourth place of the EPL after dropping an away match to Swansea City 2-1 on Saturday. The Red Devils (13-8-5) have 47 points and are just one point behind third place Arsenal with 12 matches to go. They are also just one point ahead of fifth-place Southampton, two-points ahead of Liverpool and three-point ahead of Tottenham Hotspur.

While the defeat was just United’s second in the past 20 games, the team has not progressed this season under first -year coach Louis van Gaal according to the Telegraph’s Hamish Makay. This is despite the fact that the Red Devils possess several stars such as Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Angel di Maria, Juan Mata and Ander Herrera. Van Persie, 31, injured his ankle Saturday.

Van Gaal was ripped by pundit Mark Lawrenson, labeling United’s play “very pedestrian” during an interview with BBC 5 Live. Lawrenson also questioned how van Gaal has used di Maria.

“I find Man Utd very pedestrian and that’s the first time in a long time you could say that about a Manchester United team. I think it’s the coach and the way that he wants to play. Di Maria came in, and the first few games you thought ‘wow, what a player.’ He keeps changing his position. Everybody keeps changing in this search for a particular way.”

Di Maria has not been in top form since transferring from Real Madrid to the Red Devils for a British record $92.4 million (or 60 million pounds) this summer says Daily Mail’s Joe Strange. The attacking mid-fielder is at his best when he is passing the ball or with set pieces and at his worst when required to play any defense. Di Maria has three goals, eight assists and has registered a 7.27 rating in 17 Premier contests.

In order for United to participate in UEFA’s Champions League next year, they must step up their play. United’s biggest issue is on the defensive end, where they have committed a Premier League high 24 defensive errors and have surrendered 26 goals — the second most among the top league teams. The Red Devils biggest issues seem to come away from Old Trafford, where they are just 3-7-3 this season and have a goal difference of 0.

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Despite the Red Devils recent struggles — they are 6-3-2 since the calendar turned to 2015 — van Gaal still believes in his team.

“I think every game that Manchester United plays, you have to manage that, because this is a top club,” he said. “The players and the manager have to manage that. It’s normal.”

United next two EPL games are games they should pick up points, at home against Sunderland and on the road against Newcastle United. The Red Devils will then host Arsenal in a FA Cup Quarter-Final match before resuming league match with a home contest against Tottenham Hotspur. They need to finish in the top-four of the EPL to qualify for the Champions League.

[Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images]