Man City have just given Man Utd and Erik ten Hag an extra injection of motivation

Man Utd could go above Man City in the Premier League table this week if things go their way.

Manchester United face back-to-back matches against Leeds United this week.Man Utd face back-to-back matches against Leeds United this week. (Image: Alex Livesey/Getty Images.)

With the exception of Casemiro’s red card, Man Utd’s weekend was almost perfect.

Fuelled by a hat-trick of cup victories since their last Premier League outing against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on January 22, United got back to winning ways in the league on Saturday afternoon with a hard-fought 2-1 triumph over Crystal Palace. Bruno Fernandes, who has now scored three goals in his last four league games, and Marcus Rashford scored either side of half-time to seal the points and lift them up to third in the table.

Although United’s bread and butter this season is to secure a top-four finish and Champions League qualification for next term, news of Arsenal dropping points in Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off against Everton offered Erik ten Hag’s side the chance to cut the gap on the league leaders to eight points. After passing that test, United then saw fellow top-four rivals Newcastle United also drop points, drawing 1-1 at home to West Ham United in the late kick-off.

With Arsenal and Newcastle both stumbling while United recorded a 13th successive home win, a defeat for Manchester City at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday afternoon would have seen the Reds end the weekend just three points behind their cross-city rivals. Harry Kane’s record-breaking goal was enough to settle the contest in north London, sealing a 1-0 win for Spurs, leaving both Arsenal and City in the exact same positions as they started the weekend in, only with United a little closer in their rear-view mirrors, eight points and three points behind them, respectively.

Spurs vs Man City preview: how to watch, team news & more

Though United have never once been tasked with the challenge of getting themselves embroiled in the title race this season, they may as well try and position themselves in the conversation the best they can while it is still a mathematic possibility, even if finishing inside the top-four would be considered as a successful campaign. Currently hot on the heels of City, just one place and three points behind them in the table, a victory over Leeds United at Old Trafford on Wednesday night would put Ten Hag’s troops level on points with their neighbours from M11, only behind them on goal difference.

Wednesday night’s clash with Leeds marks the first of two games against the White Rose outfit in the space of just five days. It is a very unusual situation for any club, in any league, to be facing the same opponent in back-to-back league games, but it was one of the very few slots available that worked for both clubs.

The Old Trafford showdown between the two sides should have been played back in September but was postponed following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. The contest was scheduled to take place just one day before her state funeral in London, meaning police forces we redeployed to the capital.

United have improved significantly since September, while Leeds have declined, meaning this week looks like a prime opportunity to face their arch-rivals. The Yorkshire outfit have won just two of their last 17 league games and are currently on a winless run of seven in the league, meaning it is no surprise that they made the decision to sack boss Jesse Marsch on Monday. United, by contrast, have lost just one of their last 15 games in all competitions.

With that in mind, United will head into both meetings as favourites, though nothing can be described as a guarantee when these two clubs meet, especially now Leeds will be under a different figurehead. United, however, will be targeting six points from this double-header to try and strengthen their grip on a top-four berth.

Another big week lies ahead for Erik ten Hag.

Another big week lies ahead for Erik ten Hag. (Image: Michael Regan/Getty Images.)

But as a result of City’s defeat at Tottenham, United ought to be empowered even more, as their two meetings with Leeds will be over and done with by the time City next kick a ball. After facing Leeds on Wednesday night in M16, United face them again at Elland Road on Sunday, kicking-off at 2pm. City are not in action again until 4.30pm on Sunday, hosting Aston Villa.

Should United take six points from their Leeds double-header, they will go three points ahead of City, at least for a couple of hours. The prospect of that happening ought to motivate United’s players even further, not that they should, in truth, need an added incentive to beat their rivals from across the Pennines.

Depending on the outcome of Arsenal’s clash with Brentford on Saturday, United, should everything go their way for a second week running, could be as little as two points off the summit by Sunday evening. It would require a lot of factors to go their way, particularly concerning matters they cannot control, but they have the opportunity to lay down a marker this week.



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