For Manchester United, the football hiatus could not have come at a worse time. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had finally managed to find some match-winning rhythm this season and was progressing well in the Europa League.
Sitting only three points behind Chelsea, the Red Devils firmly had and still have the Blues in their sights. In what has been a very tumultuous season, January proved pivotal in acquiring the services of both Bruno Fernandes and Odion Ighalo.
And so, with the Premier League PINC returning mid-late June, Manchester United cannot waste any time in getting back up to speed with limited games remaining to finish inside the top four.
Their first game back in the Premier League comes against Tottenham Hotspur, with no bigger storyline than the ex-manager in Jose Mourinho leading Spurs against United. With both clubs fighting for Champions League positions, it is a crucial six-pointer in which the Red Devils need to be aggressive in.
The one positive element for all clubs during this hiatus was the ability to permit time to those injured players in hope of coming back at a later date. Paul Pogba has been out on the side-lines for the majority of the season, but he has now returned to first-team training and will be in contention to start the opening match in North London.
Marcus Rashford picked up a detrimental injury in mid-January to his back, which looked more than likely to rule him out for the European Championships with England this summer. However, now with the international season being cancelled, and the return of club football, Rashford can re-join his team-mates and pick up where he left off: among the goals.
With the arrival of Fernandes, Manchester United played a much more harmonious game, full of interconnectedness and one-two passes that opened up defences. The Portugal international was sublime in linking midfield to attack and producing stunning counterattacks that the Red Devils would capitalise on.
A 5-0 rousing win in Austria was a comforting display in the knockout rounds of the Europa League – a competition that Solskjaer will be hoping that they can go all the way in and lift. After all, it provides a safe route forward to qualifying for next season’s Champions League competition.
Manchester United will be boosted by the return of key players in the last nine games of the Premier League season, along with Fernandes and Ighalo, who have both been instrumental in their own right in rejuvenating the team’s campaign.
If Solskjaer can keep morale high and provide the opportunity to play from where they left off, the Red Devils have a fantastic chance of leap-frogging Frank Lampard’s side and making their own statement come the end of the season.
Source: Forbes Business