Manchester United showed their biggest strength in top-four race vs Wolves and Aston Villa
Maybe for the first time since August Manchester United’s season suddenly feels alive with possibility. They have a tangible reward to fight for over the next three months.
A desperate campaign that had them flirting with the bottom half of the table a few weeks ago now finally has some momentum behind it. Six games unbeaten and four successive wins are season-high marks for both metrics.
The three straight league wins secured by Erik ten Hag’s side have been against challengers at the time, in Wolves, West Ham and Aston Villa. It has forced them into the top six with breathing space to those below. Now sights are set on fifth and fourth, with the gap down to five points to the former and six to the latter.
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A return to the Champions League feels like it is within United’s grasp once again. That is vital not only for the prestige it brings but for the revenue it delivers as well. Ten Hag admitted last week that a failure to qualify would affect his transfer budget this summer.
The peak in form this season can be put down to some key players returning, although the loss of Lisandro Martinez is a major blow in that regard. It can also be put down to some changes in the fortunes of players. Victory at Villa was partly built on the saves of Andre Onana and the goals of Rasmus Hojlund and neither player was excelling in their primary function back in the autumn.
But United are still living on their wits. There is a sense that their biggest weapon over the last few weeks has been their character, a refusal to cave and a willingness to fight that was perhaps also missing before the New Year.
It helps to