Manchester United were once considered outsiders for the Premier League crown following an imperious run of form that saw them creep up on table toppers Arsenal and Manchester City.
However, dropping points against Liverpool and Southampton has squashed any hopes the Red Devils had of inserting themselves in the title race.
United are still on course to finish the season in the top three, but just one point separates them from fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur in the league table, although with two games in hand.
Erik ten Hag can bank on his team’s consistency to establish a foothold in the number three spot, especially with the rest of the chasing pack faltering at every turn.
United scraped to a goalless draw against Southampton in their last league game heading into the international break despite being reduced to ten men in the first half.
April offers Ten Hag’s side a chance to return to winning ways with a mixed run of games coming up next month. Let’s take a look.
Newcastle United – April 2 (A)
Upon returning from international commitments, Ten Hag’s side will take a trip to Tyneside where they will face top-four hopefuls Newcastle United at St James’ Park.
Both sides could not be separated in the reverse fixture last October, settling for a scoreless stalemate.
However, this match-up has all it needs to be a cracking encounter, with the stakes much higher at this pivotal part of the campaign.
Eddie Howe’s impressive Magpies are just one win away from climbing above Spurs and into fourth place, as they sit just two points behind with two games in hand.
After going five games without a win (D3, L2), Newcastle will head into the contest on the back of successive 2-1 victories over Wolverhampton Wanderers and Nottingham Forest.
However, United will be keen to continue their impressive record over the Magpies, having won three of their last five meetings with them (D2).
Brentford – April 5 (H)
Keen to right the wrongs of last August’s 4-0 humiliation at the Gtech Community Stadium, United will renew hostilities with Brentford at Old Trafford in their second April fixture.
Despite winning just two of their last six league games (D3, L1), Thomas Frank’s high-flying Bees are level on points with sixth-place Liverpool in the Europa Conference League spot.
Brentford have an outstanding record against the ‘Big Six’ with only league leaders Arsenal the only team to record a victory over Frank’s dogged side this season.
United have had first-hand experience of just how dangerous the Bees can get when they are in their grove, and Ten Hag’s side will do well to avoid another capitulation in front of the Old Trafford faithful.
Everton – April 8 (H)
With the games coming thick and fast, United will host Everton at the Theatre of Dreams just three days after battling Brentford.
Goals from Antony and Cristiano Ronaldo cancelled out Alex Iwobi’s opener, helping Ten Hag’s side secure a 2-1 victory over Frank Lampard’s Toffees in early January.
However, both sides have since undergone transitional periods, setting the tone for a cracking encounter in Manchester.
Everton have improved significantly under new boss Sean Dyche who has already shown that his side can compete with the big teams, having swatted aside Arsenal in his debut.
Dyche has led the Toffees out of the relegation zone and into 15th place, although they are not out of the woods just yet, with a meagre two points separating them from the drop zone.
Everton will fancy their chances of coming away with a positive result at Old Trafford, but that will prove a tough task as United have lost just one of their last six league games (W3, D2).
Nottingham Forest – April 16 (A)
Forest are slipping back towards the relegation zone after posting just one win from their last eight league games (D3, L4).
United swatted aside Steve Cooper’s side 3-0 in their previous encounter at Old Trafford last December and will be keen to complete the double when they lock horns at City Ground.
However, the Tricky Trees have been impressive on home turf and will rely on the fans to rally them to a positive result against United that could go a long way in their fight to avoid relegation.
Tottenham Hotspur – April 27 (A)
United will travel to north London to face an out-of-sorts Tottenham Hotspur side at the tail end of next month.
Second-half strikes from Fred and Bruno Fernandes were enough to down Antonio Conte’s side at Old Trafford in October.
United will be hoping to do the double over Spurs to bolster their top-four hopes when both sides trade tackles again at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Aston Villa – April 30 (H)
United round off April’s run of fixtures by welcoming Unai Emery’s Aston Villa to Old Trafford.
November’s 3-1 stunner at Villa Park will be fresh in Ten Hag’s memory, and the Dutch tactician will be to avenge the humiliating defeat in front of the United faithful.
Villa are sitting in mid-table, but Emery’s influence in the club’s change of fortunes cannot be underestimated, as an improbable European finish is still within their reach this term.
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