Ranking Manchester United, Tottenham and Premier League fourth place contenders

Manchester United breathed new life into their season with a 2-1 win over Aston Villa on Sunday, shaking up the race for a place in next season’s UEFA Champions League in the process. While Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal look like a lock for the top three spots, the race for the fourth Champions League spot looks like a two-horse race between Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur. The former players were once favorites after a first half of the season that saw them pick up big wins against City and Arsenal, but their recent dip in form has not only allowed Spurs back into the mix but United too. Pills, too.

The race for fourth place is also set to be very competitive. UEFA will change the format of the Champions League next season, so Europe’s top leagues are eligible for a place in two additional competitions and are locked in a battle for qualification. Bad news for England in this season’s Champions League group stage after Manchester United and Newcastle United crashed out, meaning Italy and Germany are the frontrunners for those extra places.

As things stand, Spurs are fourth with 47 points and Aston Villa are one point behind them in fifth. Although United are sixth on 41 points and a full six points behind Tottenham, there is still plenty of time left in the season to give the Red Devils some hope.

Here’s a look at the state of the Premier League’s top four races, with power rankings of the contenders.

3. Aston Villa

Aston Villa once looked like a dark horse contender for the title, but poor form means they are currently outside the top four. They have not won back-to-back games in league play since mid-December, and their only Premier League win since New Year’s Eve was last week’s 5-0 win over relegation-bound Sheffield United. If Manchester United are trending upwards and Tottenham are neutral, Villa are the most obvious downwards.

His form has been a bit all over the place during this stretch, perhaps because Sunday’s game against United was already his 36th of the season which includes a Europa Conference League game. Villa still find a way to score but like others have been inconsistent defensively and let that get in the way of their attacking prowess. They are running the risk of relegation after an impressive start to the season and now, like United before them, are in dire need of a course correction to keep themselves competitive for a top-four spot.

2. Manchester United

The team’s rollercoaster of a season finally seems to be winding down, and they’re arguably on the way up. For the first time all season, United are on a four-game winning streak and their attackers are finding form. Rasmus Hojlund has now scored five goals in the Premier League and Scott McTominay has seven in his last 17, and these two are a big part of why United are the most in-form team in the group at the moment.

For what it’s worth, United aren’t exactly a fun team to watch. They have had success on days when they have been outsiders and outshots, including Sunday’s win over Villa, which looks more like a short-term strategy for success than a long-term one. that is However, especially when combined with Andre Onana’s reliability in goal during league play. Like Spurs, though, United’s defense may be their biggest weakness — while the teams around them have at least a plus-12 goal difference, Erik ten Hag’s side are posting a perfect zero.

1. Tottenham Hotspur

The funny thing about the current shape of the top-four race is that every team in the running is clearly imperfect, meaning there are a lot of scenarios in play with a few months left in the season. Spurs may have secured their first Premier League win of 2024 on Saturday when they came from behind to beat Brighton & Hove Albion, but they have few arguments in their favour. Chief among them is the fact that they are a team currently occupying the fourth spot and the only team on their heels is the out-of-form Aston Villa.

However, the more compelling point to make about Spurs is that, for the first time all season, they actually boast a complete squad. Son Heung-min is back from the Asian Cup, as are midfielder veterans Pep Matar Sar and Yves Bissoma from Africa Cup of Nations duty, while vital James Maddison and Micky van de Ven return from injury. Add to that an in-form Richarlison and a strong new addition in Timo Werner, Spurs have made their debut. And Little depth in attack. The latter is especially good news considering their big flaw in recent weeks – their porous defense. Spurs have not kept a clean sheet in a league game since December 15 but have suffered just one defeat in that time.

Dark horses: Newcastle United, West Ham, Brighton

The teams directly below Manchester United — Newcastle, West Ham and Brighton — are packed together, with one point separating them all. With three months still to go, it is worth mentioning that they are in the mix for a European berth. That said, the fact that they are five to six points behind Manchester United and 11 to 12 points behind Spurs makes it unlikely that they will be competing for the Champions League come May.

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