Manchester United's Premier League season has come down to basic mathematics win the last two games and they are assured of six points and a top-four finish therefore another crack at Champions League football next season. In doing so they will guarantee that Pep Guardiola will spend his first season guiding City through the Europa League. Could there be any bigger incentive for van Gaal and his team? Of course, this scenario could have and should have been avoided without having to rely on their rivals. Many times this season United have failed to capitalise on the failings of the teams above them so if they fail to grasp the opportunity presented to them this week then they will only have themselves to blame.
The first of those games is against West Ham United, who until their heavy defeat by Swansea City had enjoyed a stellar campaign by their own standards. Due to the shortcomings of the so-called big four, sides like West Ham have raised their game and have ensured that this season has been the most unpredictable in recent memory. Hats off to Leicester and Spurs, who have both played out of their skins and in doing so have broken the monopoly usually reserved for the likes of United, City, Arsenal and Chelsea. Who could have predicted the demise of those clubs at the start of this campaign? United's ability to collect the maximum points required from their remaining fixtures will largely depend on the team selection of Louis van Gaal. After 36 matches it is still difficult to predict the Dutchman's starting XI as he has often bemused fans with his choices.
This is not a time to rest players, but a chance for United to have the most creatively attacking players at their disposal to burst the Hammers' bubble. If fit, Martial should start up front with Rashford supported by a midfield made up of Rooney, Schneiderlin, Mata and Herrera. In defence, Blind, Smalling, Valencia and Fosu-Mensah seem to be the best option to nullify the threat of Payet and Co. Last, but certainly not least, De Gea between the sticks.
The clash against the Hammers has the added bite of being the last match to be ever played at Upton Park so United can expect a partisan atmosphere to battle against plus a team that will not only be seeking revenge for the FA Cup defeat but also pride in winning the last home game at the famous ground.
The one advantage United will have against West Ham will be the incredible Red Army of away supporters who have literally never wavered in their support for the players even when the side has struggled to put in a performance worthy of their incredible following. Providing United come away from the capital with the necessary three points, it's then down to the last home game of the season against Bournemouth who you would expect not to present a major hurdle in the Red Devil's pursuit of obtaining the win needed to get over the finishing line. It all sounds good on paper. However, stranger things have happened in United's season so nothing can be taken for granted. If United do indeed step up to the plate and end the season on a high with Champions League qualification along with the FA Cup will it still be enough to safeguard van Gaal's position as manager? Over to you Ed Woodward. Thanks for reading. By Miles Dunton [@Milesdunton].