Manchester United and Chelsea have momentum but Newcastle’s final-day task is clear

So after all the blood and sweat, after the heartache and hope, after nine months and 37 games, it comes down to this.

A last-day shoot-out on three grounds: Chelsea v Bournemouth, Brentford v Newcastle, Brighton v Manchester United. Even then it may be prolonged for yet another week to the FA Cup final with Geordie dreams hanging on City winning the Manchester derby. Can you believe it?

Europe which looked like no chance going into 2024 then great chance now hangs by a thread as we head for Brentford on Sunday. Chelsea have timed their run perfectly while we have stuttered in the last two games taking a single point from six. If Brighton was costly, and I desperately feared so after dropping two home points, then Man U was another missed opportunity.

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The realistic target has been watered down to the uninspiringly named Europa Conference League and I know more than a few United fans who having tasted the glorious glamour of the Champions League topped off by a stunning 4-1 victory over Paris Saint Germain are indifferent to Europe’s third tier competition full of teams without charismatic pedigree. They wonder if it is worth the huge physical extra effort.

However Eddie Howe has stated throughout a see-saw season that Europe remained United’s unerring target so a bad day on London territory and all have failed to achieve their goal. Harsh but true.

Of course there would be genuine reasons why – injuries the most obvious though the self-inflicted wound of a shocking away record is another – but those of a Geordie persuasion must keep the faith heading into the last chance saloon. This is not the time to run up the white flag or become indifferent to the cause. United are still chasing their first silverware in 55 years and three knock-out trophies to aim for during the next campaign brings a bigger chance of success than two.

Old Trafford was a night of what might have been. Newcastle may have scored two but they wasted countless opportunities while conceding poor goals. The space given to all three Man U scorers was criminal – had they BO? And for a footballer of Kieran Trippier’s experience to play on Kobbie Mainoo for the crucial opener when looking along the line was naive at best, suicidal at worst.

Man U defend poorly, lack speed at the back while United have pace to burn up top, and were running on empty when it came to confidence but Newcastle’s poor away form came home to roost. That was their 11th defeat in 18 matches on the road . . . and their last-day decider is away. Be warned. Europe is not built on such records!

I felt sorry for Anthony Gordon who has been truly magnificent this season. He scored the goal that pegged Man U back at 1-1 and should have opened the door to a full points return, ought to have had a penalty when Sofyan Amrabat ripped a hole in his sock and almost in his Achilles, and generally was a real inspiration.

I had sympathy too for Lewis Hall who has manfully put behind him the ignominy of being ignored all season to give us another fine shift and score the strike of the night on a ground where he similarly notched in the League Cup. Here is a young man of character.

What now at Brentford? After a good season last time round the block reality has bitten though they are safe enough. One-time Magpie Ivan Toney will almost certainly be playing his last game for them before a summer transfer and will want to go out in style. He hasn’t scored in his last 11 PL games, which is a surprising record of failure, but ominously has three goals from his four PL outings against his former club.

There is no question as we approach The Long Weekend that the impetus lies with Chelsea and Man U going into the last game buoyed by victory while the Magpies approach things on the back of defeat. However Google AA or RAC Route Planner and a clear path ahead presents itself – match Man U’s result at Brighton (even if it is defeat for both) and then pray Man City do what is expected of them in the Cup final.

View news Source: https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/manchester-united-chelsea-momentum-newcastles-29180225

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