Evra makes Reds case for the defence
Patrice Evra has claimed Manchester United have defended better this season than they did last even though they managed only their fourth Premier League clean sheet in Saturday's 2-0 win over West Brom.
Given the Red Devils had 10 shut-outs by the same point last term and are currently only five adrift of the 33 goals they conceded in the entire campaign, it seems an odd thing to say.
"The confidence of keeping a clean sheet is good," Evra said. "I am a defender. I don't like to concede goals. But I am more bothered about winning games and I know when we have a big game the defence will be strong."
The Frenchman added: "Maybe it sounds bizarre but I feel we were weaker defensively last year even if this season we have conceded more goals. I know sometimes it is about concentration and we can do much better but it does seems the opponent scores every time they shoot."
However, United evidently have enormous strength at the other end of the field. Even with Wayne Rooney injured and both Javier Hernandez and Robin van Persie rested, United were able to establish a winning position against a West Brom outfit who can name Liverpool, Everton and Chelsea amongst their victims this season.
And when Sir Alex Ferguson's men faltered, Van Persie's contribution from the bench was to score his 17th United goal to wrap up yet another win which ensures they enter 2013 seven points clear of Manchester City.
"Robin is impressive," said Evra. "He reminds me of Ruud van Nistelrooy. He came on and scored that goal. He just has to keep going."
If there is a hidden danger from Saturday's success, it came from a stamina-sapping surface, which survived a pitch inspection prior to kick-off and, according to Ferguson, left Michael Carrick "running on memory".
It surely means a significant number of changes can be anticipated for Tuesday's visit to Wigan, with the outfield players who have started all United's Festive fixtures so far - Evra, Carrick, Jonny Evans and Antonio Valencia - the most obvious casualties.
"I am lucky to play a lot of games," said Evra, who was starting his 22nd game of the season. "Until I can't run, I will ask to play. I will rest when I retire. That is the name of my game."