Manchester United: Realistic Ways for Them to Extend Their EPL Title Lead
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Despite a massive 12-point EPL lead, Manchester United are unlikely to let off the gas pedal anytime soon.
Obviously, winning is the only way they can extend the margin between them and their crosstown rivals.
If the following events do occur, they will put United in an even better position in the EPL title race.
(All stats and information are via ESPN FC.)
David de Gea Continues His Recent Dominance
David de Gea celebrating a win vs. Tottenham
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After sharing time in the beginning of the season—backup Anders Lindegaard racked up eight starts—David de Gea has, for the most part, silenced his doubters.
Although he is still criticized for a lack of assertiveness on set pieces, the Spanish shot-stopper has impressed as of late with three straight solid outings. They include EPL clean sheets against Fulham and Everton, and a Champions League tie vs. Real Madrid.
Despite a strong showing in all of these games, his performance vs. Madrid stood out the most. The Spanish side dominated possession with 61 percent possession, and had 28 shots on goal— but only scored once.
Notable saves included a diving save to stop a Sami Khedira attempt, and an early touch from his fingertips to push Fabio Coentrao's shot onto the post.
With his recent string of strong performances, his confidence might finally match his talent level and lead United to glory.
Robin van Persie Becomes More Disciplined on Defense
Ángel di María pressures Robin van Persie
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Although he is a having a great season, with a league-leading 19 goals thus far, Robin van Persie is by no means perfect.
One major flaw in his game that is often overlooked is his lack of defensive discipline. The Dutch striker has committed 23 fouls in EPL play, tied for the third most on United. By comparison, fellow strikers Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez have a combined 17 fouls, while defender Rio Ferdinand has only seven.
Some may be content with Van Persie being more physical, but most of his fouls have been foolish and unnecessary. The Daily Mail provided this picture of his recent blow to Sergio Ramos, which earned him an unneeded yellow card in the fifth minute against Real Madrid.
Ultimately, it is irresponsible for a player as talented as Van Persie to waste his time with reckless challenges that hurt his team and his image.
Ryan Giggs Mantains His Good Form
Ryan Giggs scores vs. Everton
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Though his playing time this season has been extremely limited, that doesn't necessarily mean Ryan Giggs can't still produce.
At age 39, he is obviously well past his prime, but it seems that there might still be a role, however small, for Giggs.
Coming off of his first goal of the season vs. Everton and a short cameo against Real Madrid, Giggs is proving that he can still be a valuable member of the squad.
If he can continue to contribute and occasionally notch a goal or assist, United will get an extra boost in their quest for a title.
Sir Alex Ferguson Keeps Antonio Valencia on the Bench
Antonio Valencia running down the wing against Fulham
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Once known as the Manchester United Player of the Year, Antonio Valencia is now the target of criticism from United fans everywhere.
Now in a more limited role, the Ecuadorian's crossing this season has been extremely poor, and his lack of a left foot is really beginning to show.
In his last eight EPL appearances, Valencia has zero goals and assists, but a whopping eight fouls committed—usually after coming off the bench.
With an abundance of wing-capable players at hand, Sir Alex has no reason to play the sporadic Valencia at this point in the season.
They Beat Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City
Michael Carrick pokes the ball away from Sergio Aguero
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The importance of winning was mentioned before, and this is obviously the most direct way to achieve that task.
Although every remaining game will be seen as significant, these three will most certainly be the most difficult. Aside from their extremely skilled squads, these three teams all have an ongoing rivalry with United, which will only add fuel to what are sure to be hard-fought games.
Plain and simple, United will need to win these games if they want to keep a comfortable first-place lead.