Manchester United have appointed their next manager, but will Erik ten Hag have Champions League or Europa League football to look forward to when he takes charge in the summer?
“United have a huge week coming up for their bid for the top four,” said BBC football expert and former Liverpool defender Mark Lawrenson.
“They play Arsenal on Saturday and then Chelsea on Thursday. I’m expecting a response from United after such a poor display against Liverpool but, unless we see a big improvement, they could find the gap to fourth place gets bigger, not smaller.”
Lawro is making predictions for all 380 Premier League matches this season, against a variety of guests.
This week he takes on Austin Brown, singer and guitarist with American rock band Parquet Courts and a Manchester United fan.
Parquet Courts’ new album, Sympathy For Life, is out now. The New York four-piece tour the UK in June, playing venues including Manchester’s Albert Hall and Brixton Academy in London.
One of Parquet Courts’ best-known tracks is called Total Football, but they are relative latecomers to the game, with Austin becoming a convert after becoming disillusioned with sport in the United States.
“I started watching United the season David Moyes took over, in 2013,” Brown told BBC Sport.
“So, when people talk about United going through a bad spell right now – well, for me that is all I have ever known.
“I never got the glory days. Instead my experience is that every season starts quite optimistic, but ends in a crisis.
“At the moment, every week is a new crisis at United, but I kind of enjoy the emotional rollercoaster of it all.
“I follow from America and there is an immense amount of press coverage – new gossip, or something to read about what is going wrong and how it can be put right.
“The running line, every year since 2013, has been ‘just one or two transfer windows, and we will fix this’.
“You see that happen at other clubs who are spending the right way but it feels like most of United’s big and expensive signings have not worked out.
“From Angel di Maria to Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku, these are players that should have come in and been real game-changers who inspired the rest of the squad – but instead it turns out that they just don’t fit with the team.
“Something deeper is clearly wrong at the club. Part of being a United fan is all this drama and speculation about what is going on behind the scenes, even if you just look at how we finished second last season but have fallen away so badly.
“How do you add someone with the mentality of a winner like Cristiano Ronaldo, who in my opinion is the greatest player of all time, to a second-placed team – and then do worse?”
Austin is a fan of Marcus Rashford, whose campaign against food poverty made headlines in the United States as well as the UK, and hopes the England striker can rediscover his form soon, but his all-time United hero is a more unlikely choice.
“I basically picked United from random,” he explained. “I liked talking about football when I came to Europe with the band and one of the first friends I made here was a United fan.
“When I started watching, I had to basically learn everything about football and United. I didn’t know anything and I started off just by memorising players’ names on the field and figuring out who was who.
“Wayne Rooney was there, Ryan Giggs was there – both United legends of course – but that season, the player who was obviously the most recognisable, and also the most memorable, was Marouane Fellaini.
“He was the person who, no matter how zoomed out the camera angle was, I could always pick him out. I was like ‘that’s my guy’.
“I didn’t know any history – just that this was my team. He was the new guy and I was the new guy. I could relate to him on that and I decided I was going to follow his journey – and he was legitimately my favourite player for the entire time he was with United.
“If I am being honest, I thought he was misused. He always got criticised but he was truly a weapon with his power in the air and his amazing chest control.
“He got lots of people saying he is not a United player, and I had no idea what that meant. I can understand now, because he wasn’t graceful, but I liked how he had real knack for gamesmanship – an elbow here or there. He reminded me of someone with a more American attitude towards playing the game.
“Because he was so big, he kept being put in midfield, but he is a striker – he’s like a Peter Crouch and he needs to be in the box the whole time.
“That’s what would happen in the last 10 minutes, if we needed a goal. It just became a case of ‘put Fellaini in the box and kick long balls at his head’.
“I was obviously naive to the tactics but I would be thinking if this is what you are doing to score a goal, why don’t you start the game like this? Why do you just do this at the very end when you are desperate?”
|Premier League predictions – week 34|
|Arsenal v Man Utd||x-x||1-1||1-2|
|Leicester v Aston Villa||x-x||1-2||1-1|
|Man City v Watford||x-x||4-0||4-0|
|Norwich v Newcastle||x-x||1-2||2-0|
|Brentford v Tottenham||x-x||1-2||0-2|
|Brighton v Southampton||x-x||1-0||2-3|
|Burnley v Wolves||x-x||0-2||1-0|
|Chelsea v West Ham||x-x||1-1||0-1|
|Liverpool v Everton||x-x||2-0||4-0|
|Crystal Palace v Leeds||x-x||1-2||2-1|
A correct result (picking a win, draw or defeat) is worth 10 points. The exact score earns 40 points.
LAWRO’S PREMIER LEAGUE PREDICTIONS
All games kick off at 15:00 BST unless otherwise stated.
Arsenal v Man Utd (12:30 BST)
After a run of poor performances, Arsenal looked a really good side in their win over Chelsea on Wednesday.
It was an outstanding display all round, and part of it was down to the way the Gunners were much quicker and fitter – the Blues looked flat.
United, meanwhile, just didn’t turn up at Anfield and got the result they deserved. Their fans will be hoping for a reaction after such a dismal display but I’m not convinced this team are capable of one.
With Fred and Scott McTominay still out injured, United are going to lack bite in midfield – they would have made some difference to the manner of Tuesday’s defeat and given the team a bit of steel that they badly missed.
The only thing that is stopping me going for an Arsenal win is that they have been in a position before where they had a grip on fourth place – in fact, they could almost have guaranteed it by now.
They have not dealt with that scenario very well in the past few weeks so I am not convinced things will be different this time.
It has to be said, though, that United are all over the place at the moment. With the players he has available, we don’t know how Ralf Rangnick will pick a team and decide on a formation. A point would be a very good result for them in the circumstances.
Lawro’s prediction: 1-1
Austin’s prediction: There are a lot of parallels between us and Arsenal. Both teams are always in crisis and supposedly a couple of signings away from really making a title challenge. They have also both gone through some skilled managers in the past few years and gone back to a club legend, with varying degrees of success. Still, I feel like in the time I’ve been following United, although we’ve not been successful, we’ve still always done better than Arsenal. My gut actually tells me a draw here but I am going with a United win, with Jadon Sancho to score at least one of our goals. 1-2
Leicester v Aston Villa
Leicester have developed a bad habit of conceding late goals which has cost them against Newcastle and Everton over the past week.
The Foxes have been porous at set-pieces for a while now and it just feels like teams can get at them.
Aston Villa are on a bad run of four straight defeats but they have had a couple of weeks off since they were hammered at home by Tottenham.
It had felt like Villa had lost their way after such a good start under Steven Gerrard, but having that little break will help. I’m expecting an improved showing from them, and I actually think they will win this one.
Leicester have their Europa Conference League semi-final against Roma next week and that is their priority now – they are not going to get back into Europe through their league position.
Lawro’s prediction: 1-2
Austin’s prediction: I’m going with Villa to snatch a last-minute equaliser. 1-1
Man City v Watford
It is not really a question of whether Manchester City will win this one, more a case of how many will they score?
City put eight past the Hornets the last time they came to Etihad Stadium in 2019 and, while I don’t think the damage will be as bad this time, they should win comfortably again.
Watford boss Roy Hodgson’s strength is his defensive organisation and he will set his side up to try to keep City out and make things difficult for them.
The problem there is that City are just too good. Once they get one goal, the floodgates could open.
Lawro’s prediction: 4-0
Austin’s prediction: A good friend of mine, Euan, who plays saxophone for the Welsh musician Cate le Bon, is a big Watford fan and he was a mascot when he was a kid. He got quite upset with me recently when I told him they were going down and it would be a good thing because the games would be better for them in the Championship. He didn’t like that much. We don’t have promotion and relegation in America so I guess I don’t fully understand the concept on an emotional level! 4-0
Norwich v Newcastle
I had my doubts about the mentality of some of Newcastle’s players when their results fell away a few weeks ago but it is to their credit that any drop in standards did not last long. They have shown what they are made of by winning their past three games.
The Magpies are not just safe from relegation now, they are halfway up the table. You can start patting them on the back, because staying up was their target at the start of the year and they have got the job done.
That does not mean they should be on the proverbial beach yet, however. They still have something to prove away from home because all three of those wins came at St James’ Park, and their record on the road has been poor all season.
On paper, a trip to the bottom side is a good opportunity to improve that, but Norwich showed they have not thrown in the towel when they beat Burnley last week.
If Newcastle are going to get a win at Carrow Road, then they will have to work hard for it.
Lawro’s prediction: 1-2
Austin’s prediction: Norwich are at home and come into this off the back of scoring two against United so I’m going to back them here, with Josh Sargent scoring a brace. 2-0
Brentford v Tottenham (17:30)
Brentford have won their past three games, while Tottenham had a wobble against Brighton last time out just when they were gathering momentum.
Bees midfielder Christian Eriksen will get a great reception from the away fans but I think his old club will leave with the points.
With Tottenham’s two main rivals for fourth place, Arsenal and Manchester United, playing each other earlier on Saturday, this is a big opportunity for them to improve their situation.
I know all the teams in that race have been throwing away points recently but I can’t believe Spurs will slip up again after their defeat by the Seagulls.
Lawro’s prediction: 1-2
Austin’s prediction: Tottenham are going for the top four so they have got a lot to play for. 0-2
Brighton v Southampton (14:00)
Southampton have had the upper hand in this south-coast battle in recent years – Brighton won at St Mary’s Stadium last season, but that is their only win in their nine Premier League meetings since 2017.
I am going with the Seagulls this time, though. After scoring in their wins against Arsenal and Tottenham, Leandro Trossard missed their defeat at Manchester City through illness but he has a chance of making this game.
Southampton are always a bit up and down but, unusually for them, their passing wasn’t good in their defeat by Burnley on Thursday. Their system didn’t work at Turf Moor, and they weren’t really a threat.
Lawro’s prediction: 1-0
Austin’s prediction: Both of these teams are safely in the middle of the table so we might get some goals here. 2-3
Burnley v Wolves (14:00)
Burnley got a great result against Southampton on Thursday and put in a really good performance too. They are back to within a point of fourth-bottom Everton which is huge for them.
Whatever happens next, Mike Jackson deserves a lot of credit for taking four points from his two games as Burnley’s caretaker boss and keeping their hopes alive of staying up. He has made a good case for getting the job permanently, but it is unclear whether he will still be in charge by the weekend.
Whether Jackson is in the dug-out or not, the Clarets are back at Turf Moor on Sunday but I think they will find Wolves are much tougher opposition than Southampton were.
While Saints were poor and never got going, Bruno Lage’s side do not give very much away. It might be the kind of game where Burnley huff and puff, but Wolves just pick them off.
Lawro’s prediction: 0-2
Austin’s prediction: In my experience when you change your manager you get a little bit of a bounce because the players have a lot to play for. Burnley are not known for scoring a lot of goals but they have a solid defence. 1-0
Chelsea v West Ham (14:00)
Chelsea were extremely vulnerable at the back against Arsenal on Wednesday, which was strange to see.
Afterwards, Blues boss Thomas Tuchel blamed the pitch for some awkward bounces, but I don’t buy that. That might have been an excuse in the 1970s or 1980s because surfaces could be terrible then – but not now.
West Ham have got a big game to look forward to next Thursday, with their Europa League semi-final against Eintracht Frankfurt, but they will benefit from having a rare midweek off before this game.
David Moyes’ side had started to look a little bit leggy but the rest will do them good. They have already taken points off Chelsea this season when they beat them at London Stadium in December, and I think they will have some joy here too.
Lawro’s prediction: 1-1
Austin’s prediction: I am a bit conflicted about this one because I have got my boy Christian Pulisic at Chelsea, but they are pretty safe in third place and playing better in other tournaments. I think West Ham will nick a late winner. 0-1
Liverpool v Everton (16:30)
It’s a derby, so this will be absolutely manic. The game will start at 100 miles per hour and the tackles will be flying in, they always are.
But, whatever the scenario and however hard they work, any away team at Anfield needs some quality to get anything from the game.
Everton have shown some signs of improvement in their past two games but, defensively, I still don’t think they have what it takes to keep Liverpool out.
There are 47 points separating the two teams in the table, which illustrates the current gulf in class.
Lawro’s prediction: 2-0
Austin’s prediction: Liverpool are really good, while Everton really aren’t. I know there’s the chance of an upset because it’s a derby game, but I can’t see it happening. I have a friend called Roger Bennett who does a podcast called Men in Blazers, which is for football fans in the United States. He’s a massive Evertonian and I really want to predict a win just for him, but I can’t because I am here to score points. 4-0
Crystal Palace v Leeds (20:00)
Leeds are not quite safe yet, but it is really only a matter of time until they can relax.
Jesse Marsch lost his first two games after taking over from Marcelo Bielsa at the start of March, but since then he has won three and drawn one. That is not relegation form.
Crystal Palace have suffered a little drop in form, losing their past two league games as well as that FA Cup semi-final and I just fancy Leeds to edge this one.
Marsch’s side play with a lot of energy and and they have had a bit of a break since beating Watford on 9 April, which might make the difference.
Lawro’s prediction: 1-2
Austin’s prediction: Well, Leeds have got the new manager bounce, and with Ted Lasso aka Jesse Marsch in charge! I’ve always had a soft spot for Palace because of their name but I’m going with Ted – no, I mean Jesse – here. 2-1
Lawro and Austin were speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.
How did Lawro do last time?
Last weekend, Lawro got four correct results from six Premier League matches, including three exact scores, for a total of 130 points.
He beat Def Leppard frontman Joe Elliott, who got two correct results with no exact scores, giving him 20 points.
There were also six rearranged Premier League games played in midweek, which saw Lawro and his guests make the following predictions:
|From week 18||Result||Lawro||Femi||TJ|
|Everton v Leicester||1-1||1-1||1-2||1-1|
Everton’s last-gasp equaliser meant TJ from jazz band Ezra Collective added another 40 points to his already impressive total, as did Lawro.
With one game still to be played from that set of fixtures – Aston Villa v Burnley – TJ now has 190 points, sending him well clear at the top of the leaderboard and meaning it will definitely go down as a guest victory. Lawro has 130 points and Femi 50.
|From week 25||Result||Lawro||Jeremy Piven|
|Chelsea v Arsenal||2-4||2-1||1-2|
Actor Jeremy Piven picked up 10 points from Arsenal’s win at Stamford Bridge, but he was already assured of overall victory. That game completed the set of fixtures from week 25 and Piven finishes with 120 points, while Lawro has 30.
|From week 30||Result||Lawro||Mez|
|Liverpool v Man Utd||4-0||2-0||4-1|
|Newcastle v Crystal Palace||1-0||2-1||2-0|
|Man City v Brighton||3-0||2-0||2-2|
|Burnley v Southampton||2-0||1-2||1-1|
Lawro picked up 30 points from these games, while LIFE singer Mez scored 20. With one game remaining – Watford versus Everton – Lawro leads 40-30.
|+/- DENOTE POSITION DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LAWRO’S TABLE AND ACTUAL POSITION|
GUEST LEADERBOARD 2021-22
|190||TJ from Ezra Collective|
|110||Jelani Blackman, Friction, Reuben James, She Drew The Gun, S-X|
|100||ArrDee, Dev from Idles, Johnny Marr|
|80||Lawro (average after 33 weeks), Call Me Loop, Tom McFarland|
|70||Ben Cajee, Elena Cole, Tom from Blossoms|
|60||Femi from Ezra Collective, Haydn Craven, James Spence of Rolo Tomassi|
|50||Aqib Khan, Jim Piddock, Joe from Blossoms, Shaun Thomas|
|40||James Arthur, Dan Haggis of The Wombats, Murray & Tav from FUR, Martin Noble, Curt Smith, Taka from Feeder, Justin Young|
|30||Dan McCarthy from KAWALA, Mez, Roland Orzabal, Michael ‘Venom’ Page, Roger Taylor, Zuzu|
|Total scores after week 33|
|Lawro v Guests|
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