Fletcher puts focus on United resilience
Published 27/01/2011 | 05:00
There is a chant that has grown popular among Manchester United fans this season that sums up, in eight short words, what the world knows about the club they support.
"We're Man United," they sing. "We do what we want." As the ditty rang out at Bloomfield Road on Tuesday night, it was impossible to disagree.
Cynics might suggest the song's truth lies in United's ability to emerge unscathed from incidents where other clubs might be punished -- Rafael's unnoticed foul on Luke Varney in the 3-2 win against Blackpool the most recent example -- but that is not how United's travelling chorus meant it.
Rather, they were referring to United's refusal to bow down to logic, to succumb to defeat, to acquiesce to fate. Blackpool, two goals ahead at half-time, should have ended Alex Ferguson's side's 27-game unbeaten run, in the process blowing wide open the race for the Premier League title.
Instead, after Dimitar Berbatov's double -- as well as Javier Hernandez's equaliser -- United, seemingly beaten, now stand five points clear at the league summit, undefeated in 28 games and more triumphant than ever. They do what they want.
"When we look back at the end of the season, this could be a pivotal result," said midfielder Darren Fletcher, who ended the evening at right-back after Rafael was taken to hospital with concussion, ruling him out for two weeks.
"It is definitely up there in great United comebacks. (Ferguson) made us believe we could do it. He really inspires us, gets us going, and as a team we were desperate to get out there for the second half and put things right. We knew the performance level would have to come up, we knew that, and everybody responded.''
Ferguson's grip on his players is such, of course, that he would not have it any other way. United do have a succession of challenging assignments ahead, but the five-point gap they have established over Arsenal is of considerable psychological advantage.
"It is all well and good people counting up games in hand," said Fletcher. "You have to go out on the pitch and win those matches.''
That, the Scot insists, remains the primary target for the season, despite the growing sensation that they may become the third team in history, but the second in seven years, to go an entire league season unbeaten.
"That is not the target," said Fletcher. "Although it would be great. Winning the league is the important thing."
Meanwhile, Paul Scholes (36) says he is undecided whether to play on for another season. "I just want to concentrate on getting back playing for now,'' said Scholes. (© Daily Telegraph, London)