Evra ready for United's history test
SIR Alex Ferguson may be convinced United are on the verge of a record fourth successive Premier League crown - but history is not on his side in his bid to overhaul Chelsea at the top of the table. The United manager has never lost five league games before Christmas and gone on to win the title. In fact, since the inception of the Premier League in 1992, United have only once suffered more defeats at this stage of the season - when they lost six games in the 2001-2 campaign. Coincidentally they were also chasing a fourth successive title that year, but ended up finishing third behind champions Arsenal and Liverpool. That was the only other time they lost five or more games before Christmas day. Still, Ferguson is adamant his side will eat up Chelsea's four-point lead at the top of the table to secure his 12th title. And Patrice Evra agrees with his manager and is urging his team-mates to put their inconsistent pre-Christmas form behind them and begin their title assault against Hull on Sunday. "It's a crucial time," said the French international. "We lost against Aston Villa and Fulham but the target is to win every game we can from now on. "We always do well in this period and now, more than ever, we need victories." If United are to prove Ferguson and Evra right, history - and a crippling injury list - is certainly against them. Confident They have already lost significantly more games by this stage of the season than in any of the three previous campaigns when they failed to win the title. While Ferguson is always confident his side will come strong in the second half of the season, he will know they could have been virtually out of sight by now if they had managed to put together any sort of consistency. Likewise he will be grateful that Chelsea have not managed to take advantage of the recent defeats to Aston Villa and Fulham, which could have left United with a mountain to climb in the New Year. As it is he is targeting January as the month to overhaul Carlo Ancelotti's side with Chelsea losing several key players for the African Cup of Nations. Didier Drogba, Michael Essien, John Obi Mikel and Salomon Kalou will all be away for up to a month. Ferguson is also confident that Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Wes Brown will all be back in the coming weeks, while Jonny Evans and John O'Shea are expected to return to fitness by the end of January. That still leaves defensive problems over the festive period - starting with the trip to the KC Stadium this weekend. Brown and Gary Neville are fighting to be back in time for Hull but Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher may still have to be emergency defenders. And despite last Saturday's 3-0 defeat at Fulham, Evra believes United are coping well at a time when virtually the entire defence is on the casualty list. The Frenchman has been particularly impressed with Carrick's displays since moving into the centre of defence. Evra view "I hope everyone comes back soon, but the lads are doing well. Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher are doing so well," said Evra. "Carrick has quality. He doesn't have to play all season at the back but he can do it for some games. I try to give experience at the back and make sure we all speak to each other. It's not easy but we have a strong squad, and you have to be able to play anywhere to win the title." Evra knows he could be sitting with his feet up if he was playing on the continent, rather than in the Premier League, but despite constant calls from the likes of Ferguson to introduce a winter break, the Frenchman says he enjoys playing over the festive period. "In Spain or France you can spend time with your family," he said. "You get 10 days off and can go away. In England it is not easy, but it is good. "You play the game knowing that families are coming along to watch you. I like to make people happy and play football and you know at Christmas families want to come and watch games. "It is not easy because sometimes you need a break. But you are a professional and play for Manchester United so it is what you have to do. "Also it is a short career so you want to play as much as you can." Do you think United will overhaul Chelsea? Have your say.
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