The prospect of Manchester United sitting in the top four despite being beaten at Swansea last weekend may not have left many United supporters upset, however they will be scared like hell if they understand the minimum requirement United need to achieve if they were to get into the top four places.

Louis Van Gaal has a daunting task in hand to help United get into the top four places. The Reds need to win 8 of their last 12 games and need another additional point if they were to finish in the top four places come at the end of the May.

Previously, 72 points was enough for a club to claim the fourth spot in the league table. Last season being the exception when Arsenal managed to finish fourth despite getting 79 points. So with United currently sitting on 47 points from 26 games, they need an additional 25 points to guarantee that fourth spot.

For a team that has plenty of experience of title run-ins, that’s well within their reach. They won eight of their last nine Premier League games to win the title in 2009. But this is a different situation. Over the last 10 games, United have picked up eight fewer points than Liverpool, six fewer than Arsenal and four fewer than Southampton and Tottenham.

United’s recent poor form

Despite Van Gaal claiming that United have been the form team in the last 19 or so matches in the league, the form table of the teams challenging for a place in the top four during the last ten matches have shown that United are in bottom with just 16 points in that period.

It is not like it cannot be achieved, as United themselves have managed to done it already this season. Between November 8 and January 17, they played 12 games, winning eight, drawing three and losing one. If United were to recreate that run, winning 27 points between now and the end of the season, they would almost certainly finish in the top four.

But, it would still leave them five points short of the 79 points Arsenal had last season. However, last season there weren’t many teams fighting for those four places like they are doing this campaign. Currently, just four points separate Arsenal in third and Tottenham in seventh. Further, for most of last season, Arsenal were challenging for a league title before collapsing drastically to settle for the fourth spot.

But, things have changed this time around. So much so that not many teams are managing a good run of matches were they have been able to put a run of few victories together. Only two teams apart from Chelsea and Manchester City have managed that recently. Unfortunately for United though those two are their top four rivals Arsenal and Liverpool.

Due to the tight battle for the top four places, the points tally for the fourth spot may even come down below the usual 72 points. So not all is lost for the Red Devils. However, the fixture list is a worrying one for the Reds of Manchester.

Fixture headache

The next two games are against Sunderland at home and away to Newcastle. But they’ve still got Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham and Everton to play in their last 10 games. That’s five of the top seven between March 15 and the last day of the season. Their remaining games are against Aston Villa, West Brom, Crystal Palace and Hull.

Even if we assume for a minute United beat Sunderland at home, Newcastle away, Villa at home, West Brom at home, Palace away and Hull away. They would still need seven points from Tottenham at home, Liverpool away, City at home, Chelsea away, Everton away and Arsenal at home. It’s a tough task, especially considering the way the Reds are currently playing.

Also in those 12 games, United have six away games. Till now, United have won just the three away games in the league. So United have to equal that record even if they were to beat the lesser teams like Newcastle, Crystal Palace and Hull City.

They also should ensure that they get the three points against their direct rivals when they face Arsenal at Old Trafford and Liverpool at Anfield. At least they should not lose those matches and gift their rivals with easy points.

This top four chase is equal to the famous title run-ins United have experienced during Ferguson era, however the prize this year is, arguably, even greater. It’s fair to assume that Louis van Gaal has a daunting task at his hand if he was to take United into the Champions League places this season.

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