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Published: Saturday December 28, 2013 MYT 7:30:00 AM
Updated: Friday December 27, 2013 MYT 6:43:12 PM

The ‘old’ Devils are back

Man United are winning 'ugly' again and the trip to Norwich on Saturday could well be another scrap which The Red Devils are expected to win. - EPA

Man United are winning 'ugly' again and the trip to Norwich on Saturday could well be another scrap which The Red Devils are expected to win. - EPA

TWO weeks ago, Manchester United were 13 points behind leaders Arsenal. Today they trail the Gunners by eight points.

How quick things change in the Premier League. I’m not saying the Red Devils are mounting a title charge, but the rapid change in fortunes illustrates how this season’s title race is turning out to be the most exciting and tightly contested in years.

We are at the halfway point (technically, today’s matches – the 19th for all the teams – is the halfway mark) and the top eight teams are only separated by eight points.

Tellingly, the top four teams are only four points apart. This means that even the race for the four Champions League spots is going to be really tight.

In the past, the usual qualifiers were (in no particular order), United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal. But this season, Liverpool, Tottenham, Everton and even Newcastle are all making a strong push for the top four.

The question then for United fans is, will the Moyes-led Red Devils be there or thereabouts come May?

I would like to think so. I believe that United can realistically make the top four, but winning the league? That’s a different matter altogether. United’s recent form – five wins on the trot and unbeaten in the last nine matches away from home is encouraging. The positives are there – Wayne Rooney is running into fine form, Danny Welbeck is scoring at last, Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick are back from injury to strengthen the midfield and Van Persie’s return is imminent.

But there are also question marks. Watching Thursday’s night match , I loved what the commentator John Champion had to say.

“From two down to three two up. Just like the old days”!

Yes, thrilling stuff, but United should never have been behind in the first place. The KC Stadium is not an easy place to go to, as Liverpool found out, but the two goals United conceded were ridiculous.

Moyes needs to sort out his defence pronto. All signs point to big money transfers for one or two midfielders in January, but do you remember when United conceded so many goals (22) at the halfway stage?

If I were the manager, I would be making inquiries for young Alex Bruce, son of Hull manager and United legend Steve. Bruce proved to be a clone of his dad with a no-holds-barred display at the heart of the Hull defence and just like his dad, gets you the odd goal or two.

Our problem is that we don’t have a ball-playing defender to link defence and midfield. Rio Ferdinand was one, but he’s lost a yard of pace. If we don’t buy a defender, Moyes needs to sort out Smalling, Evans and the others on the training ground.

It’s Christmas and I don’t want to be too negative. I loved the fact that Moyes is starting to be bolder with his tactics.

With 30 minutes to go in the second half and with United chasing the winner, he brought on Hernandez, and this meant five attacking players.

The others were Valencia, Rooney, Januzaj and Welbeck upfront. And ultimately, this was what won the game, leaky defence aside.

The manager may have changed but the old Manchester United resilience clearly remains.

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