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Manchester United will aim to keep their fleeting hopes of a top-four Premier League finish alive when Chelsea make the journey to Old Trafford on Thursday night.

The Red Devils went down 3-1 to Arsenal at the weekend, while Thomas Tuchel’s men left it late to overcome London rivals West Ham United 1-0.

In spite of fleeting optimism that the appointment of Erik ten Hag could galvanise the Man United players – some of whom may be playing for their futures at the club under the new boss – the Red Devils once again lost ground in the race for Champions League football to a direct top-four rival at the Emirates.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s 100th Premier League goal after a tragic week was a nice touch for the 37-year-old, but Nuno Tavares, Bukayo Saka and Granit Xhaka struck in a 3-1 success for the Gunners, who certainly rode their luck as Bruno Fernandes missed from the spot in the second half.

Taking just four points from 15 on offer since the start of the month and losing three of their last four means that Man United are at risk of dropping out of the European places entirely never mind a Champions League pursuit, with Ralf Rangnick’s side now sixth in the rankings and six points behind Arsenal having played a game more.

West Ham are also breathing down the necks of Man United, and reports are starting to emerge of Rangnick allegedly losing the dressing room at Old Trafford, but the Red Devils can at least take a slice of confidence from their domestic home form ahead of Thursday’s game.

Indeed, Rangnick’s men have strung together a seven-game Premier League unbeaten run at Old Trafford – following a pattern of winning one and then drawing one on home soil – and not since the days of Louis Van Gaal in 2015 have they suffered a trio of consecutive defeats in the top flight.

Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel looking frustrated during the Premier League game with Arsenal on April 20, 2022.© Reuters

Chelsea can empathise with their upcoming opponents after also conceding multiple goals in a recent defeat to Arsenal, and Tuchel also witnessed his side fail to convert from 12 yards at the weekend, with Jorginho’s trademark hop, skip and jump effort falling kindly into the gloves of Lukasz Fabianski.

Just when it seemed like it was going to be another frustrating afternoon at the office for Chelsea, substitute Christian Pulisic was in the right place at the right time to convert in the 90th minute and ensure that the Blues would remain in the driving seat for a third-placed finish.

Chelsea could now open up an eight-point gap to fourth-placed Arsenal should they win their game in hand on Thursday night, and victory at Old Trafford would certainly give the Blues a healthy buffer before meeting Leeds United, Everton, Leicester City, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Watford before the season is done and dusted.

There is also the small matter of the FA Cup final to come for Chelsea, whose off-field distractions may be starting to affect the players somewhat, but they have strung together an impressive nine-game winning run away from home in all competitions, including each of their last four in the top flight.

Michael Carrick did manage to hold Chelsea to a 1-1 draw with his Man United side at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season, with that stalemate stretching the Blues’ winless league run against the Red Devils to eight matches since a 1-0 home win in 2017, and it has been nine years since the capital side last won a top-flight match at the Theatre of Dreams.

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