Manchester United vs. Shakhtar: Red Devils Will Build on Momentum from UCL Win

Richard LangfordCorrespondent IDecember 10, 2013

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Phil Jones of Manchester United crosses the ball during the UEFA Champions League Group A match between Manchester United and Shakhtar Donetsk at Old Trafford on December 10, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Michael Steele/Getty Images

Manchester United remembered how to win on Tuesday in a Champions League clash with Shakhtar Donetsk. They will parlay that momentum into a solid run of Premier League success. 

On the strength of a goal from Phil Jones in the 67th minute, the Red Devils pulled out a 1-0 win in front of their increasingly desperate fanbase at Old Trafford. 

With the win, the Red Devils comfortably stand victorious atop Group A with 14 points. Bayer Leverkusen finished second in the group with 10 points. The Red Devils finished group play with a record of 4-2-0, as their struggles in the Premier League have not extended to the Champions League. 

Manchester United are currently ninth in the EPL table with 22 points. That leaves them a full 13 points behind front-running Arsenal. Their standing in the EPL has only been sinking, too. 

This was the Red Devils' first win in any competition since their last UCL affair on Nov. 27. Manchester United haven't won in Premier League play since their 1-0 triumph over Arsenal on Nov. 10. 

They entered this match having dropped two straight home matches, the first to Everton and the second to Newcastle. Both losses snapped long winless streaks for both clubs at Old Trafford. 

Although some of these woes can be attributed to the absence of key players like Robin van Persie, it has been shocking to see the defending league champions struggle like this. 

These struggles won't last forever. The Red Devils certainly don't boast the most complete lineup in their storied history, but this team has far more talent than their ninth-place standing suggests. We need look no further than their strong performances in the Champions League to tell us this much. 

Heading back to Premier League play, the Red Devils play four of their next five matches away from Old Trafford. Of course, given their recent form at home, that may not be a bad thing.

Those matches come against Aston Villa, Stoke City, West Ham, Hull City and Norwich City.

This is not exactly a murderer's row of opponents. All of these teams sit below Manchester United in the table.

On top of that, the Red Devils are returning to health. Most notable is the fact that Dutch striker van Persie has two matches under his belt since returning to fitness. Considering Manchester United have just one total goal from their last three matches, his return to the attack is a welcomed sight. 

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Robin van Persie of Manchester United competes with Darijo Srna of Shakhtar Donetsk during the UEFA Champions League Group A match between Manchester United and Shakhtar Donetsk at Old Trafford on December 10, 2013 in M
Michael Steele/Getty Images

Combine this with the fact that the defense has actually been solid by allowing just two goals in their last three matches, and Manchester United are not in as bad as shape as their recent results suggest. 

The Red Devils are ready to make a run. I expect at least 11 points out of their next five league matches, and I wouldn't put snagging 13 or 15 points past them. 

That doesn't mean this team will continue to be dominant for the remainder of the season. That doesn't mean Arsenal has to get worried about watching the Red Devils snatch the top spot from them. The Red Devils have a lot to prove before we can start counting on consistent performances. 

It does mean they will make some gains in the table and build a sense of momentum as they beat up on inferior competition and make some solid gains in the table. Anything is possible after that.