Sun, Apr 23, 2017 - Page 11 News List

Young tells Man United to aim high

AFP, LONDON

Manchester United players Ashley Young, left, and Wayne Rooney warm up at Old Trafford in Manchester, England, on Monday.

Photo: Reuters

Ashley Young has challenged Manchester United to storm to the finish line in the race to make the Premier League’s top four, while Liverpool aim to take another step toward the Champions League.

With leaders Chelsea and second-placed Tottenham Hotspur clashing in the FA Cup semi-finals, the fight for Premier League supremacy is on hold until next week, but there is still plenty at stake in this weekend’s fixtures.

Significantly, the other FA Cup semi-final features Arsenal and Manchester City and their leave of absence in the league means United have a golden opportunity to close the gap on the top four.

Jose Mourinho’s fifth-placed side breathed new life into their Champions League push with an impressive 2-0 victory over Chelsea last weekend and a win against Burnley today would leave them only one point behind fourth-placed City.

Despite a series of spluttering performances at Old Trafford, Mourinho’s men are unbeaten in their past 22 league games and United winger Young is confident a return to Europe’s elite club competition after a one-year absence is well within their reach.

They can also reach that goal by winning the Europa League after making the semi-finals on Thursday.

“I don’t think a lot of people saw that scoreline against Chelsea coming or the type of game to be honest. We did,” said Young, whose team beat RSC Anderlecht to reach the Europa League semi-finals on Thursday.

“We have belief in ourselves. I have confidence in every single player. There is great competition in the squad,” Young said. “A lot has been said about how we want to finish fourth, but I am that kind of person who wants to achieve more than that. I want to finish higher than that.”

Liverpool are one of the teams United hope to catch, but their bitter rivals show no signs of slipping, despite a growing injury list.

Fueled by the superb form of Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino, Jurgen Klopp’s third-placed side have won five times during a seven-match unbeaten run.

A victory over resurgent Crystal Palace at Anfield today would allow Liverpool to retain at least a six-point lead over fifth place.

It would also improve their chances of finishing in the top three, which brings qualification for the Champions League group stage, instead of the play-off early next season that awaits the team in fourth.

Klopp is aware of the potential danger posed by Christian Benteke, the Palace striker who left Liverpool last year after a disappointing spell at Merseyside.

Benteke has scored 14 goals this season, four more than he managed for the Reds last term.

“When the ball is in the air, he is the main threat because he is unbelievable,” Klopp said. “We felt it all the time in training when he was here. He has many goals this season so he is another player with confidence and on a good run.”

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