Sunday afternoon saw United grab a point at Stamford Bridge right from the jaws of defeat. Most people saw this as a point gained, rather than two lost given the circumstances. With 24 matches played and both Manchester teams locked at the top of the league, the stakes couldn’t be higher. The big games are coming thick and fast and United will have to be at their very best to topple rivals City. Here are five things we’d need to get right to ensure we do just that:
1. Goalkeeping Dilemma: The goalkeeeping situation has been a headache for Fergie and United fans alike all season. This season Fergie has had to interchange between De Gea and Lindegaard in goal. De Gea at 21, is clearly not the finished product, and has time and time again been gotten the better of by physical teams especially; he gave us glimses of his ability though at Chelsea with two spectacular saves right at the death. It still holds that Lindegaard has put in better and more assured shifts in goal than the Spaniard so far, and news of his six week injury lay-off has been greeted with a lot of groans and sighs. This means Fergie has the options of De Gea, Ben Amos and Tomasz Kuszczak to choose from for the next month and a half starting. It’s looking increasingly likely that De Gea will be first choice for the upcoming weeks.
2. Valencia on the Wing: On current form, you’d struggle to find a better winger in the United setup let alone the Premier League than Antonio Valencia. His ankle break seems a long time ago now. Injuries to Nani and Ashley Young have meant that there’s been more pressure on Valencia, and boy has he thrived on the pressure. He was key to victories against Bolton, Arsenal and Stoke in January. This season he’s had to turn in some shifts at right back due to our injury crisis. Not one to complain, he has bided his time and has returned to his much favored position with much aplomb. His presence on the right side of the midfield ensures a lot of penetration and speed down that flank. That is where he’s most devastating and that is where he must remain. .
3. Injury Returnees: United haven’t had the best of luck with injuries this term, with almost every player spending some time on the sidelines nursing injuries (Lindegaard the latest of them). So bad is it that we had eleven players out injured at a point in time. Evra seems to be the only player susceptible to injuries at this moment. Most teams would have crumbled with the number of injuries we have had this season. Full credit goes to Fergie for the way he has handled the situation – tinkering the team here and there, and having players adapt to unfamiliar positions.If things go according to plan, we should have everyone fit and ready for the title run in. When they are fit, Cleverley, Jones, Nani and Anderson should give the team the needed boost for the title charge and relieve the others of the pressure. With the Premier League and Europa League left to fight a fully fit squad will be needed.
4. Wayne’s World: I’ve heard this said so many times : “Wayne Rooney’s performance on the pitch reflects his state of mind.” It’shard to argue with this statement, because it appears it’s the truth. Rooney rarely puts on a good display when he has issues off the pitch to deal with, the latest of these issues being his supposed bust up with Fergie after his Boxing Day night out with Darron Gibson and Johnny Evans. He went on to produce performances that lacked consistency . There’s no doubt he’s the best we’ve got. We need him firing on all cylinders if we are to retain the league title. And for this to happen, Wayne needs to be as relaxed as possible and concentrate on his performance on the pitch. A happy Wayne Rooney is quite simple unplayable.
5. Experience always counts: We are used to the old cliché, “United have been there and done it so many times.” Truth be told, there’s no team more experienced at winning the Premier League than Manchester United. Yes, we’ve been there and won it so many times. Most of the core members of previous title winning sides are still present in the team. The likes of Rooney, Carrick, Vidic, Ferdinand, Nani etc. And when it comes to exprience of winning titles it doesn’t get much bigger than Sir Alex, Giggs and Scholes. Their presence will be vital in guiding the rest of the team to a 20th title. They know what it takes and you can be sure they’ll do everything in their power to ensure that the title doesn’t head to the other half of Manchester.
The title race is a long one. It’s time to take control of our destiny and get that 20th title, starting with Liverpool on Saturday.
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