“Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future,” Niels Bohr, physicist.
“No serious futurist deals in prediction. These are for television oracles and newspaper astrologers,” Alvin Toffler, author.
“I’m going to make a prediction – it could go either way,” Ron Atkinson, soothsayer.
Prediction is, of course, a mug’s game, but an amusing one at that. José Mourinho’s team faces no more than six games as the season draws to a close: four in the Premier League, the return leg of the Europa League semi-final against Celta Vigo next week, and a possible European final in Stockholm.
In those six games Mourinho may guide United to more silverware and Champions League qualification. With the League Cup and Community Shield already in the bag that outcome would represent a fine season, if not yet a return to past glories or the pinnacle of English and European football. Fail, and United could face another season in the second tier of European competition – and a devastating £100 million shortfall in revenues. On the up, or does Liverpoolisation beckon?
5 – 8 May – Premier League
West Ham United 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur
Manchester City 3-1 Crystal Palace
Bournemouth 1-2 Stoke City
Burnley 1-1 West Bromwich Albion
Hull City 1-1 Sunderland
Leicester City 2-0 Watford
Swansea City 1-3 Everton
Liverpool 1-1 Southampton
Arsenal 1-1 Manchester United
Chelsea 3- 0 Middlesbrough
Mourinho’s shattered troops secure a hard-earned point at Arsenal, despite mounting injuries and little recovery time after victory over Celta Vigo in the Europa League. However, a third Premier League draw in succession is potentially fatal to league hopes – the tough fixture not enough solace in the context of chasing a place in the Champions League. Meanwhile, Tottenham Hotspur’s defeat at West Ham United on Friday night effectively hands Chelsea the title, with the west London club needing just three points after the Blues defeat Middlesbrough on Sunday. Liverpool draws at home to Southampton, while City scores victory over Crystal Palace – to keep it tight at the top.
11 May – Europa League
Manchester United 2-0 Celta Vigo
The Reds progress to the final of the Europa League after a comfortable-looking, yet anything-but victory over Celta at Old Trafford. Mourinho makes seven changes to his starting line-up, but the Spaniards offer little threat on the break, while United’s forwards miss too many chances for comfort. Late goals from Marouane Fellaini and substitute Marcus Rashford win United the game and passage through to the Europa League final.
12 – 14 May – Premier League
Everton 2-1 Watford
West Bromwich Albion 1-2 Chelsea
Manchester City 1-1 Leicester City
Bournemouth 1-1 Burnley
Middlesbrough 0-1 Southampton
Sunderland 0-0 Swansea City
Stoke City 1-0 Arsenal
Crystal Palace 1-1 Hull City
West Ham United 1-2 Liverpool
Tottenham Hotspur 1-2 Manchester United
15 – 18 May
Southampton 1-1 Arsenal
Chelsea 3-0 Watford
Southampton 1-2 Manchester United
Arsenal 3-0 Sunderland
Manchester City 2-1 West Bromwich Albion
Leicester City 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur
In a dramatic week, United score two stunning victories, much against expectation and earlier form. Downcast by Chelsea’s Friday night victory – and Premier League title win – Spurs collapse at home on the big White Hart Lane farewell. Mourinho’s team goes to Southampton on a high in midweek and secures a narrow victory at St. Mary’s to take the race for Champions League places into the final day. Elsewhere, Liverpool’s narrow win at West Ham, and City’s draw away at Leicester means that there’s a point between third and fifth going into the final day of the season.
21 May – Premier League
Arsenal 2-1 Everton FC
Burnley 1-1 West Ham United
Chelsea 4-0 Sunderland
Hull City 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur
Leicester City 2-0 Bournemouth
Liverpool 3-0 Middlesbrough
Manchester United 3-1 Crystal Palace
Southampton 1- 1 Stoke City
Swansea City 1-2 West Bromwich Albion
Watford 1-3 Manchester City
On the final day of the season the Reds require victory over Crystal Palace, while hoping that one – or both – of City and Liverpool drop points. Unfortunately for Mourinho’s team neither rivals fail, with Middlesbrough and Watford holding little incentive on the final day. Dropped points at home cost United all season, although United secures victory over Palace to send the home fans to Stockholm in decent spirits. In the end, the league season has been a failure, with Mourinho failing to secure automatic qualification to the Champions League despite last summer’s heavy transfer market investment and United’s league leading wage budget. The Old Trafford crowd says goodbye to Wayne Rooney, with the veteran’s departure to MLS announced at the final whistle.
24 May – Europa League
Manchester United 2-1 Ajax (AET)
The pressure is on United to secure victory, not only for the silverware – United’s first in the UEFA Cup/Europa League – but also as a last chance of making it into the 2017/18 Champions League. Golden boy Rashford scores the extra time winner after a tense affair against a young, but exciting Ajax side. Substitute Rooney lifts the trophy in his final appearance for the club. Unsure of his first touch, the Scouser nearly drops the cup as Sir Bobby Charlton hands over the silverware…
All images: worldfootball.net
The World Football Premier League Table Predictor is available here.