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Five key factors which could lead to Manchester United meeting their league target.

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Manchester United‘s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has targeted the club to finish third in thePremier League this season within the club’s financial forecasts after the accounts were released this week.

United have spent a huge amount in the transfer market this summer – in excess of £150 million – to become the biggest spenders in the Premier League this summer, as they look to put last season’s disappointing seventh place finish behind them from last term.

There are marquee names in Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao, those who impressed in the World Cup in Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo, along with the highly talented Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera – but what else is needed to achieve a top three finish? Here is a look:

1. Defence

One of the criticisms that has been directed towards United manager Louis van Gaal during this transfer window is not buying another central defender. Marcos Rojo is likely to play on the left side of a back three and could play centrally in the back four, and Daley Blind could also take a similar position. Other defenders include Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling and although they all have experience of playing in a title winning side, none of them have really inspired confidence so far. They need to improve as a unit at the back and prove they can be solid.

2. Other teams

It may sound obvious, but a lot actually depends on what other teams challenging towards the top end of the table do. It’s thought that Manchester City and Chelsea will be too strong for the rest so that leaves one place to aim for. Vying for that will be Liverpool, Arsenal and maybe Tottenham. United will be hoping for slip-ups from all three sides. Whilst that’s all going on, United probably need to hit 80 points for the campaign.

3. New signings need to hit the ground running

So far three games have gone in the league, and only two points. It’s not the start they were after, and they need to find some form quickly. There’s no time like the present, and a win against Queens Park Rangers will give the club a huge lift on a day where up to four players could make their debut for the club. If they can all settle quickly, it could act as a springboard for the rest of the campaign.

4. Home form

Last season, Old Trafford was anything but a fortress. United lost to West Bromwich Albion, Everton, Newcastle United, Tottenham, Liverpool, Manchester City and Sunderland in the league, and if they are going to qualify for the Champions League, they must improve at home. They may have lost to Swansea City on the opening day, but a blip forgiveable, but constantly losing games to sides on your own patch can’t be tolerated this season.

5. Record against the top sides

A huge factor. Out of the sides that finished in the top six last season, United only won against one of them in Arsenal. They took four points off the Gunners, and a combined total of two points off the rest of the sides. Like their home form it needs to improve, and they need to go toe-to-toe with these sides to send out a message for the long term.

What position do you think Manchester United finish this season?

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