MUFC January Preview

By SamHartford
Dec. 30, 2016

January represents a hugely important month for us on the domestic front. We’ll need recent form to continue as we hunt down the top four as well as ensuring progression in the FA Cup and booking a place at Wembley for the League Cup final. Barring the game against Liverpool most fixtures look winnable and whilst it rarely transpires that way we should see January as an opportunity to kick on. Making predictions is always a risky business and unforeseeable changes in form, fitness and signings over the next month make it even more difficult. Still, I’ve previewed each of our January fixtures and quite optimistically concluded that we’ll come out of it unbeaten.

Middlesbrough (H) 31.01.2017
Given the current form of both sides and the home advantage, this looks like a routine 3 points. Anything less will obviously be a huge disappointment but United cannot take a Boro side that’ve drawn at both the Etihad and the Emirates lightly. Moreover, Aitor Karanka is a former coach of Mourinho’s and is better placed then anyone in the Premier League to know his methods. Despite this, his squad will have to be somewhere near their absolute best to not only deny our red hot attackers but to cause us trouble at the other end. PREDICTION: Comfortable win

West Ham (A) 02.01.2017
The departure from Upton Park and West Ham’s struggles to adapt makes this a much less daunting fixture than in previous years. I was in the away end when we suffered a 3-2 defeat there last April and there’s no doubt the atmosphere played a massive part in both inspiring West Ham's comeback and unsettling our players. Though 10 points from a possible 12 in their last four matches makes this a difficult time to be facing the Hammers and with this game coming just 2 days after Boro our settled starting XI may well be shuffled or else fatigued. Fortunately we’ve got the squad to cope whereas West Ham’s is a little more stretched, though Andy Carroll’s return could lead to some set-piece based nail biting. A draw wouldn’t be a disaster but it’s another good opportunity to gain a win in a period when those above us are playing each other. PREDICTION: Narrow win

Reading (H) FA Cup 07.01.2017
The return of Jaap Stam will be a mild talking point in the build up to this. Reading, currently 3rd, are going well in the Championship and as with any underdog in the FA Cup shouldn’t be underestimated. Whether they go for it or sit back in the hope of a replay remains to be seen but this should be a good chance for Mourinho to give some Premier League non-starters are game and gain comfortable passage to the next round. It’d be nice to see Rashford up top and perhaps even Bastian at the heart of midfield. PREDICTION: Comfortable win

Hull (A) League Cup semi-final 10.01.2017

Our first and possibly most realistic chance of silverware this season, we must be utterly ruthless over the two legs against a Hull side that are in a poor way at the moment. The main concern is that with Premier League prospects looking bleak they will be pinning all their hopes and efforts on getting to Wembley. The test will obviously come in the second leg but we should be confident of doing enough damage at Old Trafford to ensure we win the tie. PREDICTION: Comfortable Win

Liverpool (H) 15.01.2017
Likely to be massive for both. If we pick up the two wins prior to this and those above us drop points then we’ll be right at the door of the top four. As much as it pains me to say, Liverpool are well in the title mix and will be desperate to prove their worth as contenders with a win over us. Mane will be a big loss for Klopp but they are likely to have Coutinho back and so if we are to keep them at bay the form of Jones and Rojo needs to continue given that Eric Bailey will also be at AFCON. Whilst both have been brilliant recently you get the feeling a mistake or rash decision isn’t far away for either and this will be a test unlike anything they’ve faced as a pair. Yet Liverpool remain unconvincing at the back and if the likes of Ibra and Mhikitaryan are still firing then I expect us to find a way through. We’ll no doubt be much more adventurous than at Anfield where both teams produced a stifling display but I don’t expect us to dominate the ball like when Arsenal and Tottenham visited Old Trafford. It could be frantic, it will definitely be crucial.PREDICTION: Draw

Stoke City (A) 21.01.2017
Stoke are an unpredictable proposition, something probably well summed up by their recent performance at Anfield. For the opening 20 minutes they looked dangerous and could well of gained a two goal lead, yet the capitulation that followed showed just how prone they are to shipping goals against quality opposition. They’ve now conceded four against City, Spurs and Liverpool as well as three to Arsenal. Only Lee Grant and our inability to finish meant we didn’t inflict similar damage back in October. That being said, our last three visits to the Bet365 Stadium have all fallen around this time of year and resulted in two losses and a draw. The old cliché about being able to do it on a windy day in Stoke comes to mind. We’ve seen progress under Mourinho since the Moyes and Van Gaal regimes and let’s hope that’s reflected in terms of gaining points in this fixture. PREDICTION: Draw

Hull City (A) 26.01.2017
If things don’t go to plan in the first leg then this could prove a tricky game but Hull upcoming fixtures suggest they may well have suffered even more misery by the time this comes around. If made, then January signings could give them a boost but as I said earlier you would think the prospect of a first trophy would fire us up enough to get win at Old Trafford and either draw or victory at the Kcom. PREDICTION: Win