5 Things Manchester United Must Do to Ensure They Make the Top 4

Jose Mourinho and Manchester United stand at an interesting precipice. They clearly have the best squad, and are in the best form, that they have been in since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, yet they are currently running the risk of finishing lower in the table than they did in both of their seasons under Louis van Gaal. United haven't suffered a defeat in the Premier League since the end of October, but that hasn't hanged the fact that they have been marooned at sixth in the table for over 150...

Only Use Rooney in Emergencies

Club captain, all-time leading goalscorer... and total tactical misfit for this team. 

You'd have been given long odds at the beginning of the season if you'd suggested that Rooney would be sidelined, and Juan Mata a key component of Mourinho's United. So emphatic has been Zlatan Ibrahimovic's impact, that he's superseded not only as a first choice striker, but also as a leader on the pitch. 

Rooney can of course still be called on when needed, as he showcased against Stoke with the vicious free kick that made him United's all-time goalscorer, but the clear priority is now to secure a way to develop Paul Pogba, and with Michael Carrick and Ander Herrera proving so critical for this, there simply isn't space for the former talisman, or even an argument that there should be space. 

Stop Caring About the Unbeaten Run

Whilst not losing matches can never be a bad thing, you can't help but feel that the extreme length of United's unbeaten streak weighs heavily on their shoulders as they go into games, potentially to the point that simply not losing is enough for them. 

Clearly, as is Mou's MO, this squad is far more mentally strong than it has been in recent years, so if the run were to end, the response of the squad would certainly be swift. Obviously, a defeat could damage their top four aspirations in principle, but their retaliation after suffering a defeat could see them leapfrog the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal. 

At the very least, United should refrain from putting too much emphasis on the streak, as it still hasn't seen them break into the top five, and seems to hang over them, more than it seems to spur them on. 

Continue the Focus on the Europa League

As any successful manager will tell you; winning is a habit that can lift a whole team to a level beyond them. United have already collected their first silverware in the EFL Cup, after a humdinger of a final against Southampton, and still remain in competition for two other trophies. 

Most obviously though, is the fact that United are easily the best team left in the Europa League. Jose may be complaining about the long trips to Rostov in midweek and the heavy fixture pile up, but they should comfortably be reaching the final. Lyon are their toughest competition left for Thursday night football, realistically.

The confidence this should give the entire squad confidence, including the more peripheral squad players, given Jose's willingness to rotate his side in Europe. 

Find Other Goalscorers

Zlatan's story has been a fantastic one, but his success has been so great that United are now over-reliant on him for goals. Inspiration can be found in any one of Henrikh Mkhitarayan, Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, or Paul Pogba, but all season these players have clearly had a focal point in the iconic Swede. 

Zlatan's insistence on being evergreen has stifled the progress of both Rashford and Martial, and has outcast Rooney massively. Behind Zlatan in the scoring tables is Juan Mata, with 10 goals, but the gap is a big one, and they need to find more outlets, or they risk becoming predictable. 

With Ibrahimovic currently serving a three match ban after elbowing Tyrone Mings, in retaliation for the defender for falling on him, Mourinho's hand will be forced, as now he has to look for other options, but if these options come off, they can only help the Red Devils' march on the top four. 

Make Old Trafford a Fortress Again

Manchester United have drawn seven matches at home this season. These include two 0-0's against Burnley, as well as stalemates with Hull, Stoke, and Bournemouth. Fingers can be pointed towards exceptional goalkeeping performances in many of these instances, but the fact remains that United simply have not been ruthless enough in these matches. 

Complacency also set in clearly during the match against Arsenal, a match they were superior in.

If United can shake this habit of underwhelming at home, they will easily bypass less consistent competitors like Liverpool and Arsenal, and possibly challenge their sky blue rivals for a top 3 position. 

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