1. Paul Scholes – Desperation or inspiriation? Ever since Paul came out of retirement in January amidst an injury crisis at United, we have been quite literally unbeatable with him on the pitch. Since returning to the team, we have taken 34 out of a possible 36 points. In comparison, we only took 25 out of a possible 36 in the previous 13 games before January and his performance against QPR stole the show.
He completed 114/120 (95%) passes and created five direct chances in open play, with the sumptuous dink-pass to Rafael the cream of the crop. Quite how United would have fared in this run-in without the returning Scholes is a thought to be considered. He has struck a seamless partnership with Carrick that has brought such an elegant ease to our midfield that has become the engine of our rise in form.
One thing Scholes has refrained from doing as much since his return is unleashing his trademark shots from outside the box – but he showed once again that he is simply doing it out of choice. A fierce drive that Kenny couldn’t reach gave United that all important second goal to see the game out. Cries of “shoooooot” every time he gets near the edge of the box seemed to have got through to him.
As much as Valencia, Evans and Rooney have been my three most important players this season, I don’t think that we could be sitting eight points clear atop the table if Paul Scholes hadn’t of returned to the squad. What a legend.
2. The game will be remembered for controversy rather than quality. What is it with officials and an innate lack of ability to make the right decisions? I hate it when a game is marred by controversy that gets the limelight rather than the game of football behind it.
Ashley Young was clearly offside when played through by Rooney and Lee Mason pointed to the spot before Young had hit the floor. Contact was minimal, albeit there, and the back pages heavily concentrated on that rather than the quality result behind it.
I don’t like seeing United players going down like that. Seeing Suarez and Carroll taking tumbles for fun brings a smile to my face in the knowledge that they are affiliated with Liverpool. It is embarrassing when a United player does it and there is simply no defending it. Young – cut it out.
3. The title is ours to lose. Eight points clear with six games remaining? No United fan in their wildest dreams could of imagined we would be in this position after we were humiliated 6-1 by City at Old Trafford earlier in the season. Yet, that is what United do best – defy the odds, simply win.
This was supposed to be a season of transition for United. VDS, Neville and Scholes all hung their boots up last season and with a line-up blooded with youngster, it seemed destined that we would play second fiddle to our noisy neighbours. How wrong could we be?
Quite how SAF does it, nobody knows. Maybe it is something in the water. Whatever it is, give me some. The winning mentality that he instils is what all our title rivals wish they could bottle. Our typical post-January boost in form has been better than most this season having only dropped two points in the last 13 games and we now have the upper hand in the race. Who knows, if results go our way, we may walk out at the Etihad stadium to a guard of honour.
4. Five clean sheets in five games. Our defence has tightened the pipes and stopped the leaks. A consistent starting line-up of De Gea/Rafael/Evans/Ferdinand/Evra has brought back a consistency to our defence that we have lacked this season due to the absence of captain Nemanja.
Our progress this season has been more of a score-more-than-the-other-team effort rather than shutting out the opposition, as has been typical of United in seasons past. However, with five clean sheets in the last five Premier League games, we have turned the screw.
A resurgent De Gea has quietened his critics to a whisper as has Patrice Evra who has turned in some professional appearances recently. However, I feel the partnership of Evans and Ferdinand has blossomed and is the main reason behind our confident defensive performances, specifically Evans.
Last season, a lot of United fans were calling for Evans head after some consistently poor performances were the last straw. However, he has taken his opportunity this season in Vidic’s absence in both hands and stamped a claim as our player of the season. As much as Ferdinand has impressed me with his improved matches, I am already looking forward to seeing how Evans and Vidic play alongside each other because an improved Evans can only be furthered by the return of our indomitable captain.