There aren’t many puzzles left unsolved as the Premier League season nears its end. At the top, Leicester City’s fairytale has ended beautifully while Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal are almost certain to grab Champions League spots barring a profound breakdown. At the bottom, Sunderland’s resurgence has lifted them out of the relegation zone – one point clear of Newcastle United and with a game in hand. At this stage it looks like the Magpies will join Norwich City and Aston Villa in the Championship next season.
The final twist, though, comes down to the city of Manchester with two under-performing teams to fight it out for the final Champions League spot. Although their performance has been as unconvincing as ever, Manchester United is surprisingly riding a six game unbeaten run which could see them steal fourth spot on the final day.
With an FA Cup final against Crystal Palace also coming up on 21 May at Wembley in which the Red Devils will start as strong favorites, a top four finish would provide a huge boost to manager Louis van Gaal as he tries to keep his job.
For Manchester City’s Manuel Pellegrini, it would a terrible end to his three years in charge were City to miss out on a top four finish in a season when nothing has gone his way. It is true that he led the team to a breakthrough in the Champions League by progressing to the final four, but he was also considered responsible for a season in which City will go trophy-less – despite investing heavily on two of the Premier League’s most expensive players in Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne.
Some may argue that the mid-season announcement that Pep Guardiola will take over in 2016/17 undermined the position of Pellegrini. But we shouldn’t forget the same thing happened to Josef Heynckes, who knew his fate at Bayern Munich midway through 2012/13 and still led them to the treble. Pellegrini only has himself to blame with City fans clearly keen to welcome their new manager.