Title will be ours if we ignore City – Evra
Patrice Evra insists Manchester United have learned their lesson and plan to ignore what Manchester City get up to this season.
United's 2-1 win over Liverpool on Sunday briefly took them 10 points ahead of City, who responded by beating Arsenal at the Emirates to close the gap back down to seven.
That margin is less than the eight points City hunted down in the space of four matches at the end of last season to secure their first title since 1968 and deprive United of their 20th.
Yet the feeling at Old Trafford remains that the wound was self-inflicted, caused by too much attention being wasted on what was happening down the road.
And this time, with a squad Evra believes is stronger following the arrival of 21-goal Robin van Persie, the France full-back is confident the Red Devils will avoid similar calamity.
"This year we are focusing more on ourselves whereas last year we were more worried about City," Evra said. "There was too much focus on what they were going to do in their next game.
"But this year it's about us. By having a good season, we will become the champions. We finished last season with the same number of points as the champions and it is obvious we are stronger than last year given the addition of players like Van Persie and Shinji Kagawa."
With 55 points from their first 22 games, United have created a Premier League record, failing to win only four games.
Since their defeat at Norwich on November 17, they have won nine out of 10 games, drawing the other one.
Crucially, Van Persie has made a goalscoring contribution on nine occasions, underlining why City boss Roberto Mancini is not alone in believing the Dutchman will be the difference at the top this season.
Not that he is the only goal threat from the Old Trafford outfit.
Depending on how United's second is viewed, Alex Ferguson's squad either have 18 goalscorers in their midst, with Nemanja Vidic the latest addition, or Evra has five, not bad given that he only scored three times in his first six and a half years.
"He (Vidic) said it's my goal but I don't know," said Evra. "Maybe if it was a striker, they would give the goal to (Wayne) Rooney or Van Persie. But maybe because it's Evra they will not give the goal to me."
Such arguments are mere side issues now, with United sizing up a trip to Tottenham on Sunday knowing they must first navigate an FA Cup third round replay with West Ham on a decidedly dodgy Old Trafford pitch tomorrow.
Vidic's exit after taking a smack on the head will probably rule him out, while Ashley Young seems certain to spend an extended amount of time on the sidelines after coming off worse in a crunching first-half duel with Daniel Agger.
However, Nani is ready to make his return from hamstring trouble.
However, unless Jonny Evans shrugs off the hamstring injury that kept him out on Sunday, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are likely to become the 12th different central defensive partnership Ferguson has used this season.
Not that Rio Ferdinand believes such upheavals are a major inconvenience anyway. "It doesn't bother me who I play with and that speaks volumes for the squad," he said.
"That is the most important thing. It is great to have players of Vidic's quality back because he is top drawer. We know each other's game inside out and it has been like that for a long time. But when the manager can't call upon him, or anyone else, he can have 100pc faith in their replacements.
"Jonny Evans has done fantastically well when Vidic has been out. Chris Smalling has done well when he has come in and so has Phil Jones. That is more important than any individual." (© Independent News Service)