Manchester United top four fininsh may not save Van Gaal, Wenger should drop ego and question his Arsenal future

Seven thing we learnt: Benitez should be praised for Mitrovic decision, Everton fans lose patience in Martinez, Klopp witnesses his summer workload first hand, Chelsea's season far from over and why West Ham can follow in spurs' footsteps

Fourth may not be enough to save Van Gaal at United

Manchester United’s Europa League exit at the hands of Liverpool was quickly forgotten courtesy of a 1-0 derby victory over Manchester City, with teenage striker Marcus Rashford again proving to be the hero as his goal condemned City to yet more pain this season.

Stories emerged in France on Sunday morning, however, claiming that Jose Mourinho has already signed a pre-contract with United to take over in the summer, where it’s expected that current manager Louis van Gaal will be sacked. United’s victory on Sunday means that they sit just one point off the top four, with City looking precariously over their shoulder at both United and in-form West Ham.

But the general assumption is that Van Gaal will not be in the dug-out at Old Trafford come the start of next season – even if they finish in a Champions League-qualifying position. That could muddy the waters for United, with executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward determined to stick by Van Gaal for as long as possible in an attempt to prove that United are a special club with a special way of handling their business, unlike the rest of the top flight.

If Van Gaal pips City to fourth place in the league, Woodward has a very difficult decision to make.

Benitez should be applauded for Mitrovic decision

The decision to put his faith in Aleksandar Mitrovic from the start of the Tyne-Wear derby paid off, but that’s not what Rafa Benitez should be applauded for after Sunday’s 1-1 draw at St James’ Park. Minutes after the Serbian striker headed in his equaliser, he suffered a head injury and was told he could not continue by the Newcastle medic Dr Paul Catterson.

Rather predictably, the hot-headed striker was having none of it and urged Benitez to send him back on. With the momentum behind Newcastle and all three substitutions used, it would have been easy for the Spaniard to send Mitrovic back on in the hope of a vital three points. Benitez would have been crucified for ignoring the advice of his medical staff, but instead he held firm and told Mitrovic that his game was over, despite his ongoing protestations.

Benitez should be praised for taking a positive position in the campaign to improve player safety in regards to head injuries, no matter how serious.

Everton fans have lost patience with underwhelming Martinez

The fury at Goodison Park any time an Everton player misplaces a pass, allows an opposition player past them or misses the target is revealing in the frustration being felt at Roberto Martinez’s inability to lift the side to where they belong in the Premier League table. The Toffees sit 12th, and with the likes of John Stones, Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku all sought after by Premier League rivals, you have to ask what is keeping them at the Merseyside club?

Martinez has experienced mixed results since replacing David Moyes at Everton, with his first season providing a fifth-place finish before last season’s 11th place saw the pressure on him grow considerably. With a summer of spending expected at the club due to new majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri, the club need to consider whether Martinez has the reputation – or the talent – to bring the best names to Everton.

Liverpool collapse shows there’s still work to be done

Two steps forward, one step back. The famous saying is perfect for Liverpool’s 2015/16 camapaign, having invested in some smart signings last summer and moving to bring Jurgen Klopp to Anfield, only to make a calamitous £32.5m addition and falter whenever they look like hitting their stride.

Their latest defeat – a 3-2 loss to Southampton after going 2-0 up – comes less than a week after they knocked Manchester United out of the Europa League to keep their faint Champions League hopes alive, and if Klopp was unaware of the challenges he faces in the summer to transform Liverpool from Premier League also-rans to top-four challengers, he surely knows now.

West Ham are the real deal and can follow in Spurs’ footsteps

West Ham’s new stadium in Stratford will make its bow next season, and it appears to have spurred on the club threaten the Premier League hierarchy and challenge for a place among the so-called ‘big clubs’ in England. With a talented manager inspiring them up the table and a blend of young English players and skilled foreign stars such as Dimitri Payet and Diafra Sakho, the Hammers are genuinely threatening the established hierarchy of the Premier League.

Not so long ago, you could have replaced each mention of West Ham in the previous paragraph with Tottenham. Under Mauricio Pochettino Spurs looked to have the potential to break down the barrier that kept them out of the Champions League. Undeterred, Pochettino built a young squad filled with character and determination, and they now sit on the cusp of an incredible Premier League title success should they find a way to overhaul Leicester City.

Next season, the plucky young upstarts membership could expand to three members.

Chelsea’s season may not be as dead as it looks

Out of the FA Cup, out of Europe and the less said about their Premier League title defence the better. It’s been a season to forget for Chelsea, yet they have a pivotal role to play in deciding who they hand their trophy over to at the end of the season. The Blues still have to play Manchester City, Tottenham and, on the final day of the season, Leicester, and you wouldn’t put it past them to turn up and spoil the party.

The Blues somehow managed to salvage a 2-2 draw against West Ham this weekend, displaying a resilience that has deserted them far too often this season. If they can recapture that determination that saw them canter to the title last year, who’s to say that they won’t have the final say on 15 May – even if they finish outside of the top half of the table.

Arsene Wenger has to drop the ego and ask himself if he is still taking Arsenal forward

Arsene Wenger’s defiance goes before him, with the Arsenal manager reacting angrily to calls from the fans that it is time for him to leave the club. 20 years of loyal service can afford you that, but away from the cameras, the supporters and the club, Wenger needs to sit down and ask himself if he is still taking this team forward.

Two years ago, Wenger was facing the same calls as he approached the end of his contract. Victory in the FA Cup final – ending a nine-year wait for a trophy – won the fans over again, and he signed a new three-year deal before retaining the FA Cup and finishing one place higher in the league. Progress.

However, Arsenal are now fighting for a top-four finish alone, having been predictably eliminated from Europe by Barcelona and more surprisingly knocked out of the FA Cup by Watford. A fourth-place finish and no trophy does not represent progress, and if Wenger can justify that as moving in the right direction, then the north London club has much bigger issues than they currently believe.

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