Evra calls for renewed focus

After opening the campaign by combining a thrilling goal blitz with

generally steady performances at the back, United suddenly found

themselves beset by problems. Three goals given away in the

Champions League against Swiss underdogs Basle marked the low point

of a five-game run where they uncharacteristically claimed just a

single clean sheet. United did manage to keep Norwich out

immediately prior to the international break but there was more

than an element of good fortune about that. With old rivals

Liverpool and title contenders Manchester City their next two

opponents, no further lapses can be accepted. And Evra has demanded

high standards ahead of the Anfield trip. “I want us to go back to

the way we were playing before the Chelsea game,” said the

Frenchman. “We have to defend together, be very compact and not

give our opponents too many chances. “I was disappointed after the

Chelsea game because they created a lot of chances and if it had

finished 4-4 no-one could have said anything.” The anticipated

return of skipper Nemanja Vidic from a calf injury should

strengthen United at the back. Rio Ferdinand should also have

renewed focus given the explicit warning from England manager Fabio

Capello that unless he regains full fitness, and keeps his place in

Sir Alex Ferguson’s team, he can forget about appearing at Euro

2012. However, merely being fit guarantees nothing. Not with the

likes of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans providing such

stiff competition. And it does not end there either. Brazilian

twins Rafael and Fabio have already proved themselves more than

capable at full-back. Danny Welbeck has just won his second England

cap after scoring five times for United – a figure only exceeded by

Wayne Rooney. And Tom Cleverley has just been handed a four-year

contract extension as deserved reward for his impressive

early-season performances. Little wonder Evra is feeling

vulnerable. “I’m only 30 but I feel like the oldest player in the

team,” he said. “I just have to show the young players that I’m

still here and I want to play every game. “I need to prove I am

still fit because they are young. Maybe they have more energy and

think they can steal my place. “Of course, though, you also have to

help them and talk to them if anything is wrong. We are here to

protect them and to show them that it’s easy to reach the top, but

to stay there is the most difficult thing. “But before we can say

anything to the young players, we have to show our own example on

the pitch because the competition is really fierce. “The boss is

not afraid to put the young lads in and it’s working well.”