Manchester United are five points off the summit of the Premier League, with leaders Arsenal maintaining their fine form into the final third of this season.
Erik ten Hag’s transformation of United has been extreme and surprising, with the Reds comfortably in a Champions League qualification position.
Additionally, they have the upper hand in their Europa League round-of-32 play-off round against Barcelona, drawing the away game 2-2 before welcoming the Catalans to Old Trafford later on Thursday.
United are also in the Carabao Cup final, which will take place at Wembley this weekend as Newcastle look to extend United’s six-year wait for silverware.
Speaking ahead of his first game at Old Trafford as a manager, Barcelona boss has discussed the title race in the Premier League and decided to include United in that conversation.
“Arsenal, Man City and Man United are going to have a very exciting finale,” Xavi is quoted as saying by The Times when quizzed on the race.
“They are all playing very well, they are all strong, but the [league] is very demanding, I would not dare to give a winner. I have maximum respect for all three teams.”
Xavi is an experienced man in football and considering his team is about to play at Old Trafford, he will be very aware that anything he says will be replayed at Carrington.
It may seem like an innocent comment and maybe even as praise but in truth, it’s unlikely that United will be mounting a serious title challenge.
For sure, they are underdogs and will be hoping to keep the pressure on the two teams above them for as long as possible. But they will be focused on the next task at hand first, which is to eliminate Barcelona from the Europa League.