We have reached the halfway stage of the Premier League season and the Premier League table is now starting to take a shape that will be consistent throughout the rest of the season. The most exciting and most congested area is the top four where 4th placed Southampton are only five points ahead of 9th placed Swansea City; Manchester United in 3rd cannot be discounted from this battle either as they are only three points above Southampton themselves.
Below is an insight into how the rest of the season is likely to pan out:
The Red Devils have spluttered along this season without ever truly convincing, yet find themselves in a lofty 3rd place. Louis van Gaal has played down the form of his team, continually cited they needed to improve; though deep down he must be pleased with United's ability to adjust to formation changes, as well as the form of the previously maligned Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young and Marouane Fellaini.
Those three deserve as much credit as the likes of Angel Di Maria, David de Gea and Wayne Rooney for their fighting spirit which has characterised United's season and helped overshadow their relative lack of talent.
With no European football this season and signs of United's horrible spate of injuries easing up, the Red Devils will feel confident of qualifying for next season's Champions League.
Of course, they would virtually assure 3rd place if they were able to add to their defence during the January transfer window. United have not been any better than Arsenal or Liverpool who both lie further down the table than they do; the difference for United has been a world class goalkeeper who has bailed out a leaky defence that cannot clear its lines well or bring the ball into midfield assuredly.
Signing a composed and rugged centre back, plus a top class wing back will be top of the agenda for van Gaal. Whether or not United conduct this business now or in the summer will largely depend on whether van Gaal feels it would be disruptive to the team.
Rating Manchester United’s chances of a finish in the top four: 8/10