The Manchester clubs are sputtering to the finish line as they look to represent the EPL in European competition next season.
The English Premier League already has a champion, but the drama is far from over. From relegation fears to the race for fourth place, the last set of weeks in the EPL are worthy of a George R.R. Martin novel.
Much like A Song of Ice and Fire books that inspired Game of Thrones, some of the characters in this EPL season keep making fatal mistakes that will eventually cost them their lives… okay, not their lives, but certainly a spot in next year’s UEFA Champions League.
It’s not unusual for the top four teams in the EPL to be decided in the final week of play. What’s unusual is that three of the teams that were in contention this season kept shooting themselves in the foot. Fortunately for Arsenal, the inconsistencies of the other two have gifted them safe passage to next year’s Champions League. The Gunners officially clinched their 20th straight berth in the European competition after United fell 3-2 to West Ham on Tuesday. That’s a sigh of relief for Arsene Wenger, even if it’s not so for the Arsenal fans who want him gone.
Meanwhile, the result at Upton Park set up one last battle between the Manchester clubs, with United at a clear disadvantage as they remain in fifth place, two points away from City. The blue side of Manchester can take no credit for that, however, since they put themselves in a precarious position in the first place.
Manchester City could’ve secured a spot in the Champions League a while ago, but their own inconsistencies came back to haunt them. They started the month with a 4-2 loss at Southampton and followed with a draw at home against Arsenal, handing United a golden opportunity to overtake fourth place.
Luckily for City, their hometown rivals are just as inconsistent.
With an extra game in hand, Manchester United had the chance to control their destiny with a win at West Ham, which was never going to be an easy task. In the end, it proved too difficult for Louis van Gaal’s men as the hosts managed to make a glorious comeback after a wasteful performance in front of goal in the first half.
Manchester United supporters might point to the delayed start at Upton Park as a key reason the Red Devils find themselves outside of next season’s Champions League. Still, while the actions of the West Ham supporters are regrettable, Manchester United only have themselves to blame. Their vulnerability in the air against West Ham and their overall inconsistency over the season wasn’t caused by unruly supporters. It was caused by their inability to seize the moment.
Inconsistency has been the main theme in the race for fourth place, and it extends well beyond Manchester. In many ways, Arsenal owe their spot in the Champions League to others, including a West Ham team that was able to defeat United, but was also inexplicably destroyed a week ago by Swansea City.
Obviously those inconsistencies are coupled with individual moments of brilliance. Sergio Agüero has been lethal for Manchester City all season long, while Wayne Rooney is proving he can be a solid asset in midfield for United. Still, as the last weekend of the 2015-16 EPL season approaches, it wouldn’t be irrational to think that one of these two teams is going to drop precious points.
It will all be decided on Sunday as Manchester City is set to host Swansea City and Manchester United welcome Bournemouth. The Champions League waits for the team that commits fewer mistakes.