Rio tips United for top three

Six wins in seven matches have seen United rise to third in the table after a difficult start to the season where they just one of their opening five league games.

And QPR centre-back Ferdinand, whose 12-year spell at Old Trafford ended in the summer, insists United remain on course to qualify for the Champions League next year.

“Six weeks ago I think you’d be thinking hopefully they’d get in the Champions League,” Ferdinand told Sports News HQ. “Looking at them now, I think they’ll finish definitely in third place, definite Champions League, then maybe they’ll get one of the cups.

“If they continue on the run they’re on, then who knows? They could go into second or first, but I think Champions League this season would have been something they were asking for and I think they’ll finish in that comfortably.”

He added: “(Van Gaal) had a sticky start, but the lads seem to be getting a better understanding of what he wants and you can see that in the results in the last six or seven games. Michael Carrick coming back has been a huge plus for them.”

United are seven points behind city rivals Manchester City and 10 points adrift of Chelsea ahead of the visit to Old Trafford of ninth-placed Newcastle on Boxing Day.

Goalkeeper David De Gea has been instrumental in United???s recent run of form and the Spaniard insists it is vital Louis van Gaal???s side continue to maintain their recent form.

He told United???s website: “It’s all about keeping this good run going both as an individual and as a team and to keep on going with these good results.???