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Van der Sar: Experience sets us apart

Edwin Van der Sar believes Manchester United have the awareness that separates them from the rest of their rivals.

The Dutch keeper is confident United can kick on and lift an unprecedented fourth successive Premier League title.

United will go back to the top if they beat Portsmouth at Old Trafford tomorrow as Chelsea do not play Arsenal until Sunday.

Van der Sar, 39, knows what it is like to have that winning mentality: "Experience definitely helps. You've been there before -- through narrow escapes and must-win games. You know how to handle them. The more you go through these situations the better you are with them.

Van der Sar has made 203 appearances for United since arriving from Fulham aged 34.

It is no coincidence that, since he returned from injury last month and his wife's illness, the team has improved.

Injuries and suspensions to defenders Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic meant Alex Ferguson was forced to make changes -- not that Van der Sar is concerned with the disruption.

"Every player has their own characteristics, he said. "You have to understand the qualities and the character of your team-mates. Whoever comes into the defence brings their own personality and style with them. As a goalkeeper you try to make sure everything glues together and you work well."

Ferguson may again opt to pair Wes Brown and Jonny Evans in central defence after the victory against Arsenal.

Ferdinand remains absent through suspension while Vidic has a nerve problem in the right side of his leg and could miss his seventh match in a row.

Meanwhile, Owen Hargreaves has been left out of United's Champions League squad.

The move looks to have ended any hope the ex-Bayern Munich man had of forcing his way into England's World Cup team, and raises doubts over his chances of making a full recovery from his knee surgery in October 2008.