independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

United hoping to make life easier for themselves over Christmas

MANCHESTER United will be aiming to set a rather odd seasonal landmark over the Festive period - but Darren Fletcher does not feel anyone should be surprised if they produce one of those famed comebacks as well.

In a season littered with defiant responses to conceding the first goal, United have actually won their last two games from the front.



It means that if they avoid conceding the first goal at Swansea on Sunday and in the Boxing Day fixture against Newcastle at Old Trafford, it will represent a seasonal best, a crazy statistic for a Premier League title challenger at this stage of the season.



Yet Fletcher knows that United's history indicates a sticky situation is never too far away.



Time and again during Sir Alex Ferguson's era they have managed to haul themselves out of tight spots.



A two-goal lead for Aston Villa deep into the second half was not enough earlier this season.



More recently, Reading found themselves leading the Red Devils twice at the Madejski Stadium yet came away with nothing.



As Fletcher points out, it does not happen by accident.



And it is not just United's dogged bloody-mindedness that turns such situations, the fear factor within opposition ranks is just as significant.



"The never-say-die attitude is ingrained in this club," he said.



"It comes from the players, who believe in themselves, and opposition teams, who fear it.



"The club has such a history of it you almost expect it to happen. We have a great bunch of players with a great attitude. We will fight right to the very end.



"And the history of the club definitely plays a part.



"There is a psychological factor of going into the last 10 minutes knowing United will throw everything at them.



"They withdraw because they realise what is coming."



Which is the very worst thing to do.



"We are very patient," said Fletcher.



"It is not route one and it is always with a purpose.



"We get the ball wide and try to create chance. Long may it continue."



It does not always work.



Defeats to Everton, Tottenham and Norwich this term would have proved costly if United avoided a single draw so far.



So, with crucial away wins at Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City, the latter allowing United to open a six-point gap at the top of the table, Ferguson's men look well set for an historic 20th league title.



Not that Fletcher is taking anything for granted.



After blowing an eight-point lead in the space of four games last year, the Scotland skipper accepts it is far too early to start dreaming about future glory.



"The biggest thing is not taking it for granted," he said.



"We can't afford to look at the league table and think we are in a comfortable position.



"The experience of last season proves that is not the case."

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