Breaking Down Manchester United's Next 5 Toughest Matchups

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Breaking Down Manchester United's Next 5 Toughest Matchups
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After a dismal start to their campaign, Manchester United have rectified themselves and as a result sit atop the Premier League table, two points above their crosstown rivals Manchester City and three points above Roberto Di Matteo’s Chelsea.

But, defensive problems still lurk within the United camp, while the midfield has been prone to being run over by the opposition. Nonetheless, these defensive frailties have been somewhat mitigated by the offensive firepower provided by the likes of Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez. Shinji Kagawa and Danny Welbeck are also in the mix somewhere.

In their campaign thus far, United have only suffered two losses thus far—one to a superb Everton side and another to Tottenham Hotspur. In other matches, United showed why they are labelled as the comeback kings, having recently won after a 2-0 deficit against Aston Villa.

However, if United continue to show their complacency, they might be punished severely. Defensively, they need to be more organized and should avoid conceding early goals.

The fixture for United in the upcoming months are a bit tricky. There are formidable foes that need to be conquered while others need to be extenuated to some extent.

The following is a list of the five upcoming matches that I deem important. With both Chelsea and City breathing down their neck, United will need to grind out results if they wish to regain their supremacy in England.

 

1. Manchester City vs. Manchester United (December 9, 2012)

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Manchester City have been off to a less-than-perfect season. They have faced problems in England, and their performance in Europe has been abysmal. In England, they have had to come back in five separate occasions, while their problems in Europe have been well-documented.  

But if there is one man that can turn around fortunes for City, it is Roberto Mancini. As exemplified by their recent win over Tottenham, Manchester City proved why they are the champions of England. Getting a positive result at the Etihad is almost an impossibility these days. For 35 games, Manchester City have been unbeaten at the Etihad.

A draw at the Etihad, a fortress, would be a great result for United.

 

Key Player to Watch

Although Yaya Toure has not been as exemplary as last season, he is still very difficult to contain. United’s midfield will have to work extra hard in undermining his influence on the game.

 

2. Swansea vs. Manchester United (December 23, 2012)

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Last year’s darlings have proved that they are equally capable of great performances in the succeeding season. Despite an exodus of key players, Swansea have maintained their form.

And they can retain the ball well and are incredibly adept at protecting their lead. United might be too smug and Swansea might hurt them indeed.

 

Key Player to Watch

Spaniard Michu has been exceptional for the Swans this season. Signed for a paltry £2 million, he has proved exceptional.

 

3. Manchester United vs. Liverpool (January 13, 2013)

Manchester United managed to come away with a win at Anfield in their previous outing. However, if you watched the game, Liverpool clearly deserved at least a point.

United might not be so lucky next time.

With Brendan Rodgers’ tactics slowly sinking into the team, Liverpool will be a difficult opposition to break down. Their possession game coupled with the mercurial Luis Suarez’s game-changing abilities will, in most likelihood, frustrate United.

 

Key Player to Watch

Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Who else but Luis Suarez? Probably the most complete offensive player in the EPL, Suarez will cause plenty of problems for United’s back line. Furthermore, Rodgers will make a few marquee signings to support Suarez during the winter transfer window.

 

4. Tottenham vs. Manchester United (January 20, 2013)

After their outing against Liverpool, United will face another stern test a week later, this time against Andre Villas Boas’ men.

Tottenham have already registered a win against United this season, and they also came close to beating City at the Etihad. Smart acquisitions like Clint Dempsey, Jan Vertonghen and most notably Moussa Dembele have turned Tottenham into a formidable force indeed.

 

Key Player to Watch

 Moussa Dembele is another uncontainable force in midfield. He hardly ever loses the ball, and he can set up his fellow players for a swift counterattack.

 

5. Manchester United vs. Everton (February 9, 2013)

This matchup might provide Sir Alex Ferguson’s sternest test. David Moyes has turned Everton into a world-class team who, on their best day, could beat anyone.

United already suffered a harrowing defeat against the Merseyside team, and they might seek to exact revenge.

Scott Heavey/Getty Images

However, Marouane Fellaini is a strong threat to be dealt with, while players like Steven Pienaar, Leighton Baines, Kevin Mirallas and co. can also cause problems. Everton also have Nikica Jelavic, a remarkable finisher, within their ranks.  

Last year it was Everton who put the nail in the coffin and denied United their 20th title. And this year they are much stronger and genuine contenders for the top four. This will be a very difficult fixture for United.

 

Key Player to Watch

United, and a host of other teams, have had difficulty dealing with the threat posited by Belgian Marouane Fellaini. He holds the ball well, is excellent aerially, has great touches and is a great finisher too. He links up well with his fellow players and can orchestrate the entire game. Nemanja Vidic should be entrusted with the responsibilities in marking him.

 

What are your predictions for these matches? Which team shall prove to be United's undoing? Please leave your comments. 

Follow me on Twitter: @BrenGoetze

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