Sir Alex is insistent that if his squad can navigate the hectic festive period then they will be in good shape to push for a record 20th league title. Talking to reporters, Ferguson had this to say (via ITV.com),
I look at December as an opportunity to gather points. If we are top of the league on New Year's Day we know fine well, and so does everyone else, that we are going to be in the ball park at the end of the season. But we expect a challenge. It is what we are good at.
The challenging prospect of four games in 10 days means Sir Alex will rotate his squad in order to retain freshness throughout his side.
United go into the demanding spell six points clear at the top of the league table and the manager believes squad utilisation will be crucial when protecting this lead over the coming days (via ManUtd.com),
It won't be the same team in any of these games. There will be changes each game. We’ve got a few bumps and bruises. Carrick got a bit of a tight hamstring last week so I took him off at half time in the game against Sunderland, but we're alright in terms of player availability.
If Manchester United can take maximum points from the next four fixtures, they certainly will be in good shape going into 2013—Manchester City relinquished five points from the corresponding four festive fixtures last season.
But with tricky games away at Michael Laudrup’s Swansea (who have lost only two games at home all season) and Roberto Martinez’s Wigan (where United lost last season) nothing is guaranteed.
Manchester United will be boosted by the return to fitness of club captain Nemanja Vidic who Sir Alex will be hoping can shore up the leaky defence that has conceded 24 goals in 17 league games so far.
Speaking in his press conference and reported by ManUtd.com, Ferguson revealed his squad’s fitness news,
Vida is doing great in training, it's just a matter of picking the time to bring him back. Jonny has had one or two injuries but hopefully they're behind him now—he’s fit for Sunday. Rafa won't make Sunday's game as he's still out with a hamstring, while Kagawa takes training with the first team on Monday. Nani is still injured.
According to Statto.com, history shows us that going into the New Year at the top of the table is not necessarily an accurate indicator of which team will be the eventual champions come the end of the season.
From the past 20 seasons, only exactly half the teams leading the Premier League table on New Year’s Day have gone on to become the champions.
Will Manchester United will win the league if they retain top spot come New Year’s Day? Give me your thoughts below or hit me up on Twitter @jonathanbeever.