Manchester United’s players are hopeful this Christmas.
They still believe they can reach the top four of the Premier League and qualify for the UEFA Champions League this season.
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After Jose Mourinho was fired ahead of the festive period and replaced by caretaker manager, and United legend, Ole Guunar Solskjaer, the shackles were off in the 5-1 win at Cardiff City on Saturday.
Speaking to reporters after that game, United left back Luke Shaw believes they can reach the top four.
“Of course we want the top four; we want to be playing in the Champions League next season,” Shaw said. “I don’t see why we can’t if we keep playing like that.”
Eight points off the top four ahead of their Boxing Day clash with Huddersfield Town (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold and online via NBCSports.com), United have a favorable run of games coming up as they play Bournemouth and Newcastle next.
If United’s key attacking players such as Jesse Lingard, Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford continue to play with confidence after the extra freedom given to them by Solskjaer then United can expect some big wins over the festive period.
If that is the case, the eight point gap to fourth-place Chelsea will quickly be cut.
Shaw also discussed the lack of respect for what Mourinho achieved during his time at Old Trafford, and pointed chiefly at the trophies in the cabinet over the past three seasons.
“People might be quick to forget what Jose did for United – the three trophies he won – he did a lot,” Shaw said. “One of the trophies [Europa League] was one we had not won before, and he took us to three trophies in one season. So those people need to respect him and remember what he did.”
That is true.
Although Mourinho’s time at United didn’t work out, it wasn’t the worst tenure in PL history. United won the League Cup, Community Shield and Europa League, while they also lost in the FA Cup final and finished second in the PL last season.
This season is all about one thing: repairing the damage of the final weeks/months of Mourinho’s reign and somehow sneaking into the top four.
There will be an almighty scrap between Arsenal, Chelsea and United for that fourth spot, with Liverpool, Man City and Spurs well ahead in the top three.