For the uptenth time this season, Manchester United head into a round of EPL fixtures seeking a kickstart to their season. However, a solemn absence of sustainability has rendered all the above mentioned kickstarts premature. It is a measure of the challenge ahead for us that we lie some 6 points off the Chmapions League places, behind teams that have mastered the art of consistency, or at least are better than us at it. We really used to be good at it too.

Our season has come down to the next 15 games or so of the league campaign. Given that European glory in Portugal in May is more of a dream than aliens paying earth a visit, our season will from now on depend on how we apply ourselves domestically to make next season's Champions League. For starters, the next 9 points are an absolute must, not least because they are winnable.

The first of those 9 is against Cardiff City at Old Trafford. Now, ordinarily this would be a certain 3 points for the home side. However, as you might have heard over the news, this is no ordinary season. We've found it harder to win at home than visiting sides, so much so that away days have provided unusual comforts. What a shame!

The biggest subplot to the tie will be a debut to United's most expensive player, Juan Mata. The football world will be eager to see whether Mata suddenly makes United different proposition or whether he will be swallowed up by the blackhole that is the United midfield. The other significant subplot to the tie is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's return to Old Trafford, only this time as the adversary.

Ultimately though, the most important factor on the night will be whether Manchester United win. Anything less and it will count for little if Mata produced a stunning overhead assist, or if Soskjaer replicated that '99 winning goal at halftime and slid towards the Stretford End.