With Manchester United level on points with Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table having played a game less, the push to retain the title is reaching a climax as Fulham visit Old Trafford on Monday evening.
The defending Premier League champions have been potent up front for most of the season, having already passed the 100-goal mark in all competitions, and scoring more goals in the league at this stage of the season than any United side since the Busby Babes. Wayne Rooney has been in fine form, with Danny Welbeck proving something of a revelation and Javier Hernandez a constant goal threat. The menace out wide has been provided at different times by Luis Nani, Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young.
It has been in defence and in the centre of midfield where United have been experiencing problems. With Edwin van der Sar retiring, a lot was expected of de Gea to come in and fill the void of calmness and experience the Dutchman brought to the side. After some early mistakes and the blunder against Blackburn that cost United dearly at Old Trafford, the Spaniard is finally getting some of the recognition he deserves. There have been quality stops against Chelsea, Liverpool and Stoke, whilst also thwarting a Robin van Persie effort in the home demolition of Arsenal that was almost identical to his successful strikes against Liverpool and Everton. It is arguably the case that de Gea has saved many more points this season for United than he has cost them.
The loss of Vidic in early December was a huge blow for United, and has undoubtedly led to an unsettled back line. Rio Ferdinand can no longer play in every game, which has meant that a lot has been asked of Jonny Evans to provide stability in the centre of defence. After admitting last season that his form had been poor, the Northern Irishman appears to have knuckled down this term and looks like he is on the way to fulfilling his potential. However, had Vidic not suffered his injury, it would be interesting to see how many more points United would have gathered so far, as the captain’s organisational skills and domination of the defence cannot be underestimated.
When United were scoring freely at the start of the season, the loss of Scholes was not a huge talking point. However when the goals dried up and games became tighter, the centre of midfield was crying out for his composure and ball playing abilities that help maintain possession and control of games. Despite what Patrick Vieira may think, his return has been emphatic, and would be considered a huge factor if United successfully defend their Premier League crown.
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