As Man United struggle, can Spurs, Arsenal or Leicester gatecrash the Premier League top four?

The optimism which greeted the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo has long since disappeared and even a top-four spot could prove out of reach for United. So who are best placed to take advantage?

When the transfer window closed this summer, the Premier League top four looked to be set in stone.

Chelsea and Manchester United had strengthened and Manchester City and Liverpool were as good as ever.

On Monday Night Football, Gary Neville proudly declared the Premier League to have "the best four teams in Europe" and it appeared only to be a question of which order would they finish in.

However, since then, Man Utd's stock has fallen. They have taken just one point from their last three games and their top-four spot looks anything but certain.

That raises an entirely new question: if Man Utd don't make the top four, who will gatecrash the party? Planet Sport looks at the contenders.

Tottenham

Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane celebrates scoring their side's third goal of the game during the UEFA Europa Conference League Group G match at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London.

If anyone is going to take full advantage of Manchester United's stuttering Premier League campaign then it's looking like Tottenham right now.

It's been a bit of a streaky season for Spurs. They started with three successive wins and then lost three on the bounce. Since then, they have won back-to-back games to reinsert themselves in the Champions League picture.

Harry Kane has dominated the Tottenham narrative this season. Since being forced to back down over a summer transfer request, Kane has not looked his usual self.

There are growing signs he is rediscovering something resembling his best soccer now though, and if he can get himself back in the groove them Spurs have a real chance of a Champions League berth.

Arsenal

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrates for Arsenal

Arsenal are another team who had a streaky start to the season and, briefly, they looked like they had found a winning formula.

They grinded out wins against Norwich and Burnley, which is something the Gunners have failed to do in the past, before administering a sound beating to Tottenham in their north London derby.

At that point, Arsenal looked like they were starting to generate some serious momentum. However, successive draws against Brighton and Crystal Palace have stalled their progress.

The talent is still in that squad, though, and with a fair wind they could get themselves in a position to challenge for the top four.

West Ham

Jarrod Bowen celebration West Ham Oct21

West Ham finished just two points off a Champions League place last season and are a better team this time around.

Kurt Zouma is a fine addition at the back and Declan Rice has another year of maturity behind him.

It comes as little surprise, then, that the Hammers are challenging for the top four places again this season. And they may feel they should be a little higher than the seventh position they currently occupy.

David Moyes has gatecrashed the top four before with Everton, so it's not beyond the realms of possibility that he could do it again with the Hammers.

Leicester

Jonny Evans in action for Leicester

Leicester are another team who fell just two points short of the top four last season.

This time around they have been plagued by inconsistency. Brendan Rodgers put much of that down to an injury to Jonny Evans. "He's a top defender and when he plays we are better," he said back in September.

Evans has since made his return and right on cue Leicester have won two games in a row, scoring four against both Manchester United and Spartak Moscow.

Perhaps then, Rodgers knew what he was talking about and we can expect Leicester to stringing a few more results together.

Everton

Everton celebrate at Manchester United

There is an argument to be made for Everton being the biggest and most consistent underachievers in recent Premier League history.

Since they started spending a few years ago, they have never really challenged the top four places and the board and fans would surely have expected better than that.

It's not like they have tried to penny-pinch in the dugout either, with Roberto Martinez, Ronald Koeman and Carlo Ancelotti having been handed the reins.

Rafa Benitez is the latest to be tasked with the job and we know he will bring with him his usual brand of pragmatism. That may not be as pretty as past attempts, but it may well be more successful.

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