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United face defining period after Cup exit

Manchester United will begin a five-game period which could define their season when they seek to recover from the bitter disappointment of their FA Cup exit in a Premier League clash against Tottenham on Sunday.

After the meeting with Spurs at Old Trafford, Louis van Gaal’s side take on Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea in their next four games as the battle intensifies to qualify for the Champions League via a top-four finish.

Aston Villa are the other team United must face in that period but van Gaal is in little doubt that, with only 10 games left in the season and with Arsenal having ended United’s interest in the FA Cup quarter-finals last Monday, this span of games will be crucial.

“You are right. It is very decisive, the coming matches,” van Gaal said.  “Of course, after a defeat at home, it is also important to see the reaction of the team.

“We play against a very good team in Tottenham. We are so close with a lot of clubs. We can be second or third. It is not a big difference I believe.

PLAYER OF THE MONTH

“Manchester United has to be one of the teams who has to play in the Champions League. We have seen that this year. It is not good, surely, if it is the second year (without Champions League football).”

Van Gaal must decide whether to continue with Wayne Rooney in attack.

After abandoning the use of the England centre-forward in a midfield position, van Gaal has seen his player score three times in as many games but has warned that Rooney is not guaranteed to remain up front.

Back to back victories have helped Tottenham move on quickly from their League Cup final defeat against Chelsea and Mauricio Pochettino’s side head to Old Trafford knowing a third successive win would move them level on points with United.

“We are having a great time,” said Pochettino. “We go to Manchester United believing in our style and we will try to win three points.”

Harry Kane will again lead the Spurs attack after scoring twice in last weekend’s 2-1 victory at QPR and this week collecting his second successive Premier League player of the month award.

EPL Fixtures – Saturday:

Crystal Palace vs QPR (3:45pm)

Sunderland vs Aston Villa (6pm)

West Brom vs Stoke City (6pm)

Leicester City vs Hull City (6pm)

Arsenal vs West Ham (6pm)

Burnley vs Man City (8:30pm)

Sunday:

Chelsea vs Southampton (4:30pm)

Man United vs Tottenham (7pm)

Everton vs Newcastle (7pm)

Monday:

Swansea vs Liverpool (11pm)