How high can Manchester United finish in the Premier League?

Louis van Gaal's Manchester United are struggling - We look at the stats

After defeat to West Brom, Manchester United are down in sixth in the Premier League, three points adrift of fourth-placed Manchester City, who have a game in hand.

Can Louis van Gaal's men close the gap to qualify for the Champions League? 

United have nine games remaining this season and Van Gaal told Sky Sports his team need 27 points. But how high can they finish? 

We take a look at their prospects…

Premier League top six 2015/16

Position W D L GD Pts
Leicester 17 9 3 21 60
Tottenham 15 10 4 27 55
Arsenal 15 7 7 16 52
Man City 15 5 8 21 50
West Ham 13 10 6 12 49
Man Utd 13 8 8 10 47

Back-to-back Premier League wins over Arsenal and Watford launched United back into the race for the top four but the fact remains that, after losing at West Brom, United have taken just 47 points from their first 29 games of the season. Nine consecutive wins would put them on 74 points, but if they continue at the same rate, they will finish the season on 62.

That total would be nine points lower than their tally in 2014/15, when it only would have been enough for a sixth-placed finish. It might be a different story this season given the struggles of the Premier League's big sides, but Van Gaal will still be hoping for considerable improvement.

Salomon Rondon (L) has an unsuccessful shot during the English Premier League football match between West Bromwich Albion and Manchester United
Image: Salomon Rondon scored WBA's winner against Manchester United

Remaining fixtures

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So what are United's chances of bouncing back from their disappointment at the Hawthorns? On paper, their run-in looks tricky. The Red Devils still have to travel to Man City, Tottenham and West Ham, and they also face potentially difficult home clashes against Everton and leaders Leicester.

Average position of remaining Premier League opponents

Team Avg position of opponents
Man Utd 10.1
Man City 11.4
Tottenham 11.5
Leicester 12.1
Arsenal 12.7

The average position of their remaining opponents (10.1) is higher than any of the top four, but on the plus side their fixtures throw up plenty of opportunities to close the gap on the teams above them. 

Marcus Rashford and Juan Mata linked up well at Old Trafford on Sunday
Image: Marcus Rashford and Juan Mata celebrate during United's win over Arsenal

More ominously, however, is that United took just 13 points from a possible 27 in the reverse fixtures of their remaining games - winning three, drawing four and losing two. Repeat results would see them finish the season on just 60 points.

Potential fixture worry?

Another potential issue facing United is fixture congestion. Van Gaal's side face Liverpool in the next round of the Europa League and host West Ham in the FA Cup quarter-finals over the next fortnight, meaning they could have as many as 11 cup games to play as well as their remaining Premier League games before the season is out.

Potential remaining games (including possible FA Cup replays)

Team Potential remaining games
Leicester 9
Tottenham 16
Man City 16
Arsenal 20
Man Utd 20

Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester City also have domestic and European commitments to consider, but Leicester have a clear run in the league having been knocked out of the FA Cup earlier this season.

Injury issues

A hectic fixture list could take its toll on United's depleted squad. Their injury crisis has forced Van Gaal to promote youngsters from their academy in recent weeks, and according to Physio Room they currently have nine first-team players out injured.

Wayne Rooney could miss up to six weeks for Manchester United with a knee injury
Image: Wayne Rooney is sidelined with a knee injury

The number of absentees limits Van Gaal's options when it comes to squad rotation, so he'll need the likes of Wayne Rooney, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Phil Jones to recover as quickly as possible.

Conclusion

There are plenty of obstacles facing United in the final months of the season and their task has been made tougher by defeat at West Brom. They can barely afford any more slip-ups. United must deliver more big wins against their closest rivals to boost their chances. 

Where do you think Manchester United will finish? Leave us a comment below or let us know on Twitter @SkyFootball.

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