Last updated : 04 January 2007 By Editor

“We have got to a level where you can smell that the team is right together. People are familiar with one another. Their families get to know each other. They understand each other's strengths and weaknesses.

“The longer they are with each other they develop these relationships and you can see that blends the team together.

“Maybe Chelsea's luck is changing - they've had some incredible fortune in the last couple of years. They scored in the last minute against Wigan and Spurs last season, then scored in the first two minutes against us at the end of last season, things like that.

“I don't think we've had any real luck in games this season. In terms of injuries we started off without the full squad - Gabriel Heinze wasn't fit, then we've had problems with Gary Neville.

“Then Ji-Sung Park and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer were injured. But we've coped really well because the squad has become stronger and more experienced, so when players are out we're handling it much better.”


“Sometimes you have to remind yourselves as a team that it is nothing major because the fact people are asking questions after two or three draws is a statement about what a team we are and what a squad we are.

“It is certainly not a crisis. It is something we need to address, because we are not used to drawing games and not getting three points for three games on the trot. We are used to winning games and we want to win games again.

“Even though we haven't had John Terry and Peter Cech and Arjen Robben and Joe Cole, we expected to get more points than we have done over the Christmas period.

“It works both ways. We dropped points we shouldn't have done and Manchester United haven't capitalised in the way they might have done. Ourselves and Manchester United know the situation now and there is still a long way to go. I am confident we can pull the gap back.

“There are many points to play for and we've got a lot of confidence in this team. That's the reason we've been champions two years on the trot.”

From the Telegraph:

As Sir Alex Ferguson has never tired of pointing out, championships are decided over Easter rather than Christmas. His own managerial history at Old Trafford bears this out.

Only three times in 11 previous seasons have Manchester United led the Premiership on New Year's Day and only once, in 2001 when they were 11 points clear of an Arsenal side they were soon to humiliate 6-1, did they end up with the trophy.

As the year of 1999 dawned over the statue of Sir Matt Busby, United had 19 fewer points than they do now and within six months they had won everything. Should Manchester United's winter offensive go to previous form, it does not matter who Jose Mourinho brings to Stamford Bridge, his team are finished.

Yet United may not have an extra gear left. Their start was everything. Unlike previous summers, they had not scheduled a draining tour of Asia or the United States. Aside from Cristiano Ronaldo, their midfield and forward line were either bit-part players at the World Cup or, like Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, were not involved at all.

Couple that to a very easy beginning — Fulham, Charlton, Watford — and United had a momentum they have not relinquished. However, the second half of the season will be decidedly more awkward.

United have to go to Anfield, the Emirates Stadium and Stamford Bridge, as well as Fratton Park and the City of Manchester Stadium, grounds where they have stumbled in recent seasons.

Chelsea, by contrast, have what seems an easier set of fixtures. From Jan 21 to April 21 they only once travel beyond Watford. However, it should be remembered that last year's unconvincing Premiership race was effectively ended by a doomed, wretchedly performing Sunderland holding United at Old Trafford, not by a grand set-piece occasion.

Only twice in recent years has a side tossed away a bigger lead than United now have. On Jan 1, 1998, Arsenal were sixth in the Premiership and a dozen points adrift. However, United had already lost Roy Keane to long-term injury and Ferguson would soon be deprived of Gary Pallister and Ryan Giggs. They never recovered their poise.