Man Utd Focus - Old Trafford looks forward to 2013
Manchester United end the year seven points clear at the top of the Premier League table, looking forward to a 2013 that promises intrigue and some pulsating fixtures for Old Trafford to host.
Following the disappointment of last season, the Reds have regrouped under the tutelage of the evergreen Sir Alex Ferguson. The United manager celebrates his 71st New Years Eve birthday with his side sitting pretty at the top of the league despite not having hit their stride. As is the Scot's nature, he will be demanding improvement in the second half of the campaign.
A huge factor in the positivity with which Old Trafford regards the forthcoming year is the form of the irrepressible Robin van Persie. The Dutchman was the most exciting signing United have made since bringing the 18-year-old Wayne Rooney to Manchester, and has seamlessly bedded in at his new home. He has already found the net 17 times this season and contributed 6 assists, and his continued presence in the team in 2013 will be a huge factor in bringing success to the red half of the city.
The turn of the year should also see the reintegration of two key players into the United side, Shinji Kagawa and Nemanja Vidic. Kagawa was impressive in his return to the starting lineup against West Brom on Saturday, completing 97% of his passes and looking composed in the attacking third. He will likely get a run in the team should Rooney be absent for the next couple of weeks, spearheading a midfield that has been anchored by United's most consistent performer in the middle of the pitch this season, Michael Carrick.
Ferguson labelled Carrick the "key man" prior to the start of the season, and after the Englishman excelled in the second half of the last campaign, he has continued his strong form this time round. His form in 2013 will be another critical aspect of United's success, along with the return of club captain Vidic, who was named man of the match against West Brom. Saturday was only the fourth time the Reds kept a clean sheet in the league this season, and they have shipped an alarming 28 goals already. Vidic's leadership and organisational skills will be much needed as the season hots up, particularly in Europe.
In the Premier League United have more often than not been able to outscore their opponents. In the Champions League however Real Madrid await, and Old Trafford prepares to welcome back Cristiano Ronaldo. Should United stand any chance of progressing past Jose Mourinho's side, the defensive weaknesses must be addressed.
2013 will also see a plethora of big league games at Old Trafford, as United entertain the likes of Merseysiders Liverpool and Everton, in addition to English champions Manchester City and European champions Chelsea.
United's supporters have good reason to look forward to the new year with optimism. Should the likes of van Persie, Rooney, Carrick and Vidic perform to their full potential, 2013 has the capacity to erase some bad memories at Old Trafford.
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