Chelsea’s victory over Aston Villa on Sunday afternoon opened up a five-point cushion in the race for the top-four positions.
Frank Lampard side were 1-0 down at half-time at Villa Park, but turned the game on its head with quick-fire goals from Christian Pulisic and Olivier Giroud.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s challenge of securing a top-four spot has now become more difficult as United restarted their Premier League campaign with a 1-1 draw against Tottenham on Friday evening.
United now must secure victory over Sheffield United on Wednesday in their first game back at Old Trafford to avoid losing momentum.
There were signs for encouragement against Spurs and Solskjaer can now utilise Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba in the same midfield to give them the best chance of closing the gap on their rivals for European competition.
Of course, the battle for the top four positions is academic if Man City do not get their Champions League ban overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. United will qualify for the Europe’s most elite competition with a fifth-placed finish if the ban is upheld.
But United must avoid relying on extenuating circumstances and concentrate on picking up as many points as possible in the remaining eight games of the season.
And the Reds have a desirable run-in with plenty of winnable games, including home fixtures against struggling Bournemouth, Southampton and West Ham.
While no games will represent easy wins given clubs are fighting for their survival, Solskjaer would obviously rather come up against the weaker opposition.
United are currently eight points behind Leicester who are in third, but play the Foxes on the last day of the season which could become a massive game if Brendan Rodgers’ side slip up in the coming weeks.
United’s remaining games:
Wednesday June 24th, 6pm – Sheffield United (H)
Saturday June 27th, 5.30pm – Norwich (A), FA Cup
Tuesday June 30th, 8.15pm – Brighton (A)
Saturday July 4th, 3pm – Bournemouth (H)
Thursday July 9th, 8.15pm – Aston Villa (A)
Monday July 13th, 8pm – Southampton (H)
Wednesday July 15th (TBC) – Crystal Palace (A)
Saturday July 18th (TBC) – West Ham (H)
Sunday July 26th (TBC) – Leicester (A)