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Battling The Bull's Eye On Their Back



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There is a bit of chatter as to whether Manchester United can go the entire Barclays Premier League season unbeaten or not, but that is not an objective for the club.

United did superbly well to stretch their unbeaten start to the league to 21 matches this season, 26 games overall, with their nil-nil draw against Tottenham, but even Sir Alex Ferguson has admitted that running the table is a bit of an unrealistic goal, and it is forbidden from even being discuss inside the club.

It is common knowledge that other club’s biggest games of the season – both home and away – are against United, and now there is an even bigger target on their back to see who can end their unbeaten streak.

To be honest, the Reds should be a little more focused on how to turn a draw into maximum points, because United has only won twice away from Old Trafford, which may not be good enough to win the league this season.

After yesterday’s pulsating draw with Tottenham, their manager, Harry Redknapp, claimed that United will not finish the season undefeated, which, if that stands true, means that Sir Alex needs to make some serious adjustments – again.

United’s team defending and lack of focus was highly-criticized and the major discussion point at the beginning of the season, but, now, with the leadership of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic back in central defense that worry has subsided.

However, now there is a problem in the positions in front of the back-four, and those issues need to be addressed if United are to avoid anymore draws.

To really counterbalance these problems, United desperately needs to become more creative in the midfield, and acquire a killer instinct in their attacking play.

Both of those points were missing against Tottenham, but to be fair to the strikers, they did not have any quality service up to them from the midfield.

After watching the last few matches, it is becoming quite essential that Paul Scholes comes back to form quickly, and Sir Alex does his bit to keep him fit and fresh for the remainder of the season.

Michael Carrick is another fine passer of the ball, but, at times, he lacks the vision and imagination, which has been down to Sir Alex changing his role this season.

The England international has become more of a holding midfielder, and, with all things considered, he has done admirably well, but Ferguson knows that is not his preferred, or most effective position on the field.

At the beginning of the season, United was being overrun in the midfield, which handcuffed Sir Alex to make that move, and it was evident against Stoke City that more qualified reinforcements are needed in the center of the park.

Whether Sir Alex has over compensated too much for his lack of resources, still remains to be seen, but players like Anderson and Darren Fletcher need to be more reliable and not give away the ball so cheaply.

A lot of supporters think that United has a huge advantage by having played two less games than Manchester City, and a game less than Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham, but that is far from the truth.

United’s two games in hand are against Blackpool, which will be made up in just seven days time, and then their other make-up match against Chelsea is on March 1 – in the midst of four consecutive road matches.

Neither of those two games – or any of the Reds’ 17 other matches for that matter – are a given, because both teams have the capabilities to shock United.

Overall, United have drawn nine matches – eight of them away from home – in their 21 league matches, and only once has a team won the Premier League in the last 12 years with double digit draws.

That was in 2003/04 when Arsenal, or The Invincibles as they have been called, became the first team to go the entire season unbeaten in the history of Premier League.

Amazingly though, in the 1998/99 season when United won the treble, 14 of the 20 teams in the league had more than 10 draws, and Sheffield Wednesday had the least amount with seven.

In comparison to that famous season for the Red Devils, thus far in the 2010/11 season, there are five clubs with more than 10 draws, and realistically five more, including United, could surpass that plateau as well.

Sir Alex Ferguson will have his players completely focused on the task at hand, which is simply winning their next game and avoiding a major blip, and if Manchester United keeps that mentality they will maintain their status as odds on favorites to win the 2010/11 Barclays Premier League title.

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"The United Religion: A Manchester United View From Abroad," www.theunitedreligion.com, is a blog that delivers an American perspective on one of the world's most successful football clubs. Since I have an opinion about anything and everything, I decided to put many of my off-the-wall ideas as well as passionate feelings about the ongoings of United into words. In my writings, you will discover that I do my best to back up all of my outlandish opinions, and finicky analysis with statistical and/or factual evidence. If you wish to publish any of the articles, or have any questions, please contact me directly at theunitedreligion[at]gmail[dot]com.