Edwin: Experience will help United
Edwin Van der Sar believes Manchester United’s awareness of how to win the Premier League title will separate them from the rest.
The Dutch goalkeeper is confident they can kick on and lift an unprecedented fourth successive title.
United will go back to the top on Saturday if they beat Portsmouth at Old Trafford as Chelsea do not play until Sunday against Arsenal.
Van der Sar, 39, knows what it is like to have that winning mentality.
"Experience definitely helps," he told the club’s website.
"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 at dealing with them.
"There’s a moment in your career where it clicks and you think, ‘I"ve been in this situation before, I know what to do, I know what to expect’. That comes in handy sometimes."
Van der Sar has made 203 appearances for United since arriving from Fulham at the age of 34.
It is no coincidence that since he returned in January from injury – and his wife’s illness – the team have improved. Injuries and suspensions to defenders Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic meant manager Sir Alex Ferguson was forced to make changes – not that Van der Sar is that concerned with the disruption.
He said: "In general, we tend to coach the same way and to play in the same system. But every player has their own characteristics.
"You have to understand the qualities and the character of your team-mates. Sometimes one defender is quicker than another, or one is better at heading the ball.
"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 following 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 almost certainly ends any hope the midfielder had of forcing his way into Fabio Capello’s World Cup squad and raises fresh doubts over his chances of making a full recovery from double knee surgery in October 2008.
UEFA have confirmed the former Bayern Munich star is not among the men United will rely on in their quest to reach a third successive final.