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As the year draws to a close with Manchester United top of the standings 7 points clear, Red Devils fan En Lim reflects on a year where caution was thrown to the wind

By En Lim

Top of the League going into the tail end of 2012, comfortably clear of its nearest rivals, but half a season more to go. All is good so far, but Manchester United has a long road ahead if it intends to continue on this path of trying to wrestle the BPL title back from crosstown rivals Manchester City.

With several Houdini-esque escapes this season with last-gasp winners thanks to Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez, United have indeed been extremely lucky to be top of the League now. And if this were a video game, they will soon run out of lives to resurrect themselves, and it might be game over before the end of the season.

In short, the new 2012 season so far can be classified as a year of living dangerously for Manchester United.

Despite having the best goal difference to date thanks to the goalscoring exploits of new boy van Persie, United has leaked almost 30 goals so far this season in the BPL alone, an uncharacteristically high number which might come back round to haunt them come end of the season in May. After all, goal difference was what lost them the title last time round.

Fans and pundits alike have theories aplenty about the cause of this leaky defence. From an early season injury crisis that hit the defence, to not having a regular number one goalkeeper that in turn destabilises the team. Fact or fiction, one thing is for sure – United needs to tighten up its backline and get a midfielder to boss the centre of midfield the way Roy Keane used to.

The current set of midfields such as Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher and Tom Cleverley are good squad players who value-add to the team in different ways, but none are the effective hurry-and-scurry player Keano was, the defensive midfield rock who provides extra protection for the backline. Owen Hargreaves probably came closest but the Englishman never had time and luck on his side to fulfill his potential and repay the hefty sum forked out for his services.

In an ideal world, the immediate solution would be to make a splash in the January transfer window and purchase a player who would become a quick-fix solution providing the team with stability and security for the backline. Players in the mould of Yaya Toure, Marouane Fellaini or highly rated PSV player Kevin Strootman would be what United needs.

But with money being an issue, forays into the transfer window appear unlikely and the Red Devils need to plug the holes in the team from within instead, perhaps to look to the likes of Anderson. The Brazilian has shown glimpses of his talent this season, but hampered by injuries, his return would be most welcomed in 2013.

2012 has also seen United for the first time in a long time, not have a regular number one goalkeeper. The lack of stability between the posts has definitely affected the confidence of both goalies David De Gea and Anders Lindegaard when they play, as well as the defensive back four, who probably are inadvertently affected not knowing who will be protecting them week in week out.

Such uncertainty in goalkeeping is not ideal, and it has cost United titles in the past. Ferguson would need to sort it out soon and stick with a regular number one keeper for the months ahead, to provide the team with some stability between the posts, something that could do wonders to the team’s morale.

The popular choice for the Red Devils fans have been to stick by the young De Gea, whose superb shot-stopping abilities gives him the edge over Lindegaard at the moment. The young Spaniard needs to bulk up and pick up more experience in order to fulfill his potential, and honestly, there is no other way to gain experience than to play week in week out.

If these holes can be plugged and with a tinge of Lady Luck on its side, there is no reason why United will not be able to continue on its path to regain the title.
Living dangerously is the name of the game for the Red Devils, and heart attacks are a ritual of passage that all United fans would have experienced, and will continue to experience. But here’s hoping that going forward into the new year the defensive woes can be fixed, goals continue to be plundered in at the right end, and the title goes back to where it rightfully belongs – the red half of Manchester.