Saturday marks the start of the second third of the season. We now have a pretty decent idea of how the season will pan out for most teams. We now know where United are in terms of a second season in transition and what they must do to count the season a success.
Forget the negativity in the media. United are just four points from the season's target. It'all up for grabs beween second place and 4th on the log. City, Arsenal and Liverpool are expected to be our competitors for those positions but none of them has so far displayed a consistency to worry United much. The catch therefore shall be in how many points against the alsorans that each side shall pick up. At the moment, we are worst placed of the lot because we've picked up the least points against the sides from the bottom half of the table.
Having done away with the two difficult games of the past fortnight, we now have an opportunity to get back in the recknoning with as merely as the next two wins. With the sides above us playing each other this weekend as well as a trip to the Emirates after the International break, we could easily be in 4th by the end of the month if the players keep up the attitude with which we approached the last two games.
Crystal Palace provide the opposition this weekend at Old Trafford where we have been most comfortable so far. With no wins between the last International break and the upcoming one, surely Saturday should be a formality. Palace are by no means fodder for any team as demonstrated in their performances against Arsenal and Chelsea earlier this term, but United just cannot afford anything other than the three points tomorrow.
There is a truth that United are probably yet to come to terms with. Attacking United at will used to be a preserve of sides that held themselves as equals or for sides that trusted their defences to bail them out of counter attacks. Today, because of the public knowledge that is a shaky defence, even with such a fearsome attack, lesser sides now know that it's not just about keeping it tight at the back against United. You can get a goal almost as surely as you attack United. It's a truth that United have got to deal with. Seeing out games as opposed to trying to outscore the opposition is perhaps the wise thing to do for now.
Football is ultimately a results based business. Therefore, although we've put in some admirable performances in some games so far, it is the results that we should ultimately aim for in the upcoming pre-Christmas run.
We've not built a strong enough foundation so far to launch ourselves to May after Christmas with our targets still in sight. It's not yet too late to build on what we have but it's imperative we go on a run of results now. The rewards are great, largely because of the inconsistency of our rivals. There's no side in the league that you can beat even on an off day so you hope that the attitude levels are not dropped tomorrow.
Injuries and suspension mean that we shall be light weight at the back tomorrow. It will be interesting to see how the manager copes with that. Unless Jones or Evans recover in time, Carrick and Mcnair could be asked to do a job. You can bet Palace will test that vulnerability but it can be overcome if people follow their markers so as to avoid one on one situations.
It's another couple of weeks without football after this so you hope there is something positive to look back on just as we had over the last international break.