FIVE things we learnt about Manchester United this week

Stop me if you think that you’ve heard this one before: United draw on the road with a below-par performance that still leaves a sour taste in the mouth due to the referee.

While it’s debatable how much Mike Dean had to do with the outcome of the match- one thing the lovely looking fellow did do was turn a decent result into a very good one for United, all things considered.

Drawing 0-0 at White Hart Lane is hardly shameful and despite the fact that United had won the last seven games against Spurs, after going down to ten men the result seems a hell of a lot better.

United remain unbeaten, are back on top of the Premier League and now have a run of games which is, if were completely honest, fairly easy. Of course no games are given as ‘easy’ this season but with fixtures coming up against Birmingham, Aston Villa, Blackpool and Wolves in the EPL, I’m sorry but that’s 12 points there for the taking.

Before I allow my confidence to get the better of me though, I’ll stick to the job in hand and ask just what did we learn from the latest United away draw other than Chicharito is the new Franco Baresi and Rio Ferdinand is the sort of man who’ll kick you when you’re down!

1. Sir Alex should beg Edwin Van Der Sar for one more season. ‘Beg’ ‘mither’ ‘cajole’ whatever word you want to use, Sir Alex should try and get the big Dutch ‘keeper to play for at least one more year. Van Der Sar didn’t have the busiest of days but whatever came his way he dealt with comfortably. Van Der Sar is having an excellent season and obviously looks after himself. He may be past 40 but judging by performances he’s playing almost as well as ever. If he can be persuaded to stay for another season, maybe missing the cup games and some of the easier home ones, then he could save Fergie and United a massive headache.

2. Rafael will learn and only grow stronger. It may seem like a silly statement given the fact that the Brazilian now has the dubious honour of being the last player to be sent off for United -and the last one before that, but the signs are there. Rafael has probably been one of the biggest bonuses for United this season, coming on leaps and bounds to become the first choice right back.

Marking the greatest player in the history of world football out of the game- twice in one season- is remarkable enough. It should be noted that for the game at White Hart Lane- of the two ‘wunderkinds’ it was Rafael and not Bale who looked the more threatening going forward, taking on players and moving the ball forward magnificently.
He was hard done by to get booked- both times in my opinion – but that shouldn’t detract from the real substance of his performance which was excellent. If he keeps going progressing on his upward trajectory then some of the dubious tackles and petulance will be eroded, especially if Rio Ferdinand has anything to do with it.
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3. Rooney needs to play the next four League games. Many people were critical of Wazza’s performance at WHL and while it was by no means vintage, I thought there were some positives especially considering he was just back from injury and thrown into one of the toughest games there is. Rooney has had a stop start time of it since that fateful night in Munich and the sad thing is against West Brom he looked to be finally back to his best, only to get injured late on by a reckless Chris Brunt lunge.

Now it seems Rooney has to begin the process of getting back to not just full fitness but match sharpness and a decent run in the side is the best way for that to happen. The games against Birmingham, Blackpool, Wolves and Villa could represent a great opportunity for Rooney to get not only get back to his best but also hopefully get among the goals.

4. Scholes’s return is much-needed. The midfield for United this season has been something of a merry-go-round and it seems each week there’s a new ‘flavour of the month.’ After the Spurs game at OT it was Fletcher, after the City game Carrick, after Blackburn Anderson. Yet one player has been the most consistently creative of all United’s central midfielders this season -and arguably the last 15 – and that man comes from Oldham.

Carrick did a fine job against Spurs mopping up loose balls and helping keep the threat of Modric and Van Der Vaart quiet. Fletcher was his usual energetic self and Anderson carried the ball with confidence in the time he was given. Yet none of the aforementioned midfielders can open up a defence or dominate a game quite like Scholes. It was a shame that Rafael’s sending off prevented the Ginger One from entering the fray as there’s a good chance he could have produced that one killer pass that led to a United goal.
Scholes has been sorely missed these past few games and despite the sometimes inspired performances of his colleagues, he’s still the best man to control a game that Ferguson has at his disposal and I for one am looking forward to seeing him in action again soon.

5. The key to remaining unbeaten lies with Rio and Nemanja. Am I alone in thinking that as long as Messrs Ferdinand and Vidic are starting United look practically impenetrable. Vidic was arguably the better of the two against Spurs, having to deal with everyone’s favourite light bulb changer whilst also keeping VDV quiet.
He may have been a tad fortunate not to concede a penalty but shirt pulling doesn’t count if you’re Serbian and captaining United, according to FIFA rules. Both Vidic and Ferdinand were excellent and even when United went down to ten men, there was an air of dare I say ‘invincibility’ about them. I’ve always thought that remaining unbeaten for the entire EPL season may be a bit too much to ask, but with our two centre backs fit, I may just dare to dream.

Written By Justin Mottershead from the NEW Man United blog ‘Red Flag Flying High’
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