Football: Herrera rallies United for 'game of the season'

Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney, both of whom scored against Burnley last week, may face more competition at Old Trafford if Manchester United beat the clubs chasing the signature of Atletico Madrid's French forward Antoine Griezmann. Jose Mourinho
Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney, both of whom scored against Burnley last week, may face more competition at Old Trafford if Manchester United beat the clubs chasing the signature of Atletico Madrid's French forward Antoine Griezmann. Jose Mourinho is keen to bolster his front line after losing patience with his current crop of strikers.PHOTO: REUTERS

Top-four spot at stake for Manchester clubs, as United make "concrete" Griezmann move

LONDON • Manchester United midfielder Ander Herrera has called the Red Devils' Premier League match against Manchester City tomorrow "the game of the season" and believes it will play a decisive role in both teams' chances of finishing in the top four.

United, who are fifth in the table, trail fourth-placed City by a point and Herrera feels the winners of the derby at the Etihad will be in pole position to book a spot for next season's Champions League.

"It's going to be the game of the season," the Spain midfielder told United's website. "I don't know the 'winner takes all' expression but it's going to be a massive game.

"If one of us wins it, we are not going to lose a lot of games or make mistakes after that. It will be key.

"We are in a very good moment, on a very good run... and we have to show it on Thursday."

United, unbeaten in 23 Premier League matches, can also qualify for the Champions League by winning the Europa League.

They play Spanish side Celta Vigo in the semi-finals next month, and can still add to the League Cup they won earlier this season.

City manager Pep Guardiola's first season in Manchester, however, will end without a trophy.

Regardless of how both teams finish, they are certain to strengthen their squads in the summer.

The Manchester neighbours will battle to sign Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid, with United leading the chase, according to the Frenchman's agent Eric Olhats.

United manager Jose Mourinho wants to sign the forward to bolster his options in attack after becoming annoyed by the profligacy of his strikers this season.

Griezmann has scored 25 goals for Atletico this season and United are hopeful of signing the 26-year-old after initiating talks with Olhats.

"We're at the stage of gathering information from clubs who have a concrete interest," Olhats told the French television programme Telefoot. "There is an unavoidable €100 million (S$151.55 million) clause so that restricts the number of candidates. You have United, (Manchester) City, Chelsea, Barcelona and Real Madrid. United were the first to come and see us and the most concrete in their wishes."

United's need to strengthen their attack has increased after Zlatan Ibrahimovic was ruled out until the new year, having suffered a serious knee injury during United's Europa League win over Anderlecht last week.

REUTERS, THE TIMES, LONDON

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 26, 2017, with the headline 'Herrera rallies United for 'game of the season''. Print Edition | Subscribe