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Red Devils still have plenty to play for

TEAMtalk's Pete Hall says Manchester United still have plenty to play for this term - even after they have wrapped up the Premier League title.

Last Updated: 05/04/13 at 11:07 Post Comment

Manchester United: Won't be allowed to rest on laurels

Manchester United: Won't be allowed to rest on laurels

This season's unquestionable objective was to silence those noisy neighbours and put to bed the stomach-churning Martin Tyler commentary of that final-day nightmare.

Despite declaring the title ours at the same stage of the last ill-fated campaign, I am going to say it again, we are champions.

The difference is, I'm willing to put my house on it this time around, as it is almost a formality, but despite our recent FA Cup and acrimonious Champions League exit, there is still plenty to play for in the final eight games.

Obviously there is the local bragging rights that victory on Monday will bring, as memories of that fateful humiliation almost 18 months ago still painfully linger in our minds. Doing the double over Roberto Mancini's men will add yet more gloss to a hugely successful domestic campaign, and will go some way to helping us achieve a Premier League points record.

Chelsea, under the stewardship of Jose Mourinho, netted an impressive 95 points back in the 2004/05 season. Nineteen points from a possible 24 available, at the time of writing, will see Sir Alex Ferguson add yet another record to his ever-expanding collection, and judging by how we have cruised our way through most of this campaign to date, it is certainly more than attainable.

Forgetting our cup disappointments, reaching such a points tally will be the perfect response to last season's heartache, and put our beloved local rivals back in their place.

However, team accomplishments aside, certain players still have a lot to prove before the summer, none more so than a player who has arguably made the difference this time around.

Robin van Persie has scored just one goal in his last 12 games in all competitions for the Red Devils. That is a drought by anyone's standards, and his level of performance has dipped dramatically from that which saw the flying Dutchman take a wounded United side by the scruff of the neck and make us a force to be reckoned with from the word go.

At his age he isn't going to have more than three or four years at the top of his game, and if the former Arsenal forward wants to remain playing at the highest level, he must find his goalscoring touch before the end of the current campaign, and give his confidence a much needed boost ahead of another assault on silverware at home and abroad next season.

Sir Alex is famous for not dwelling on success, and will already planning for August at this early stage, and has made no secret of his desire to add more European honours to his medal haul.

He won't let big name superstars stand in his way - Jaap Stam, David Beckham and Roy Keane will testify to that - and van Persie will not be immune to our celebrated chieftain's ruthless tendencies should he continue to misfire next season.

I have seen enough to have no doubt that van Persie has far too much quality to continue his slump, but certain other players I have less faith in.

Antonio Valencia, last season's Fans' and Players' Player of the Year, has been the biggest disappointment of an otherwise almost flawless campaign. Defenders seemed to have worked out how one-dimensional he is, and has looked a shadow of the blockbusting winger that frightened many full-back in 2011/12.

It would be harsh to suggest his time at M16 is up, but he has a lot to prove if he is to keep his place in an ever-improving, young squad.

Two other wingers, Nani and Ashley Young, have had stop-start campaigns, and with transfer funds not as readilly available as in years gone by, one of these under-performing stars may be a makeweight for big-name summer acquisition.

Danny Welbeck has impressed, especially in clashes against tougher opponents, winning acclaim from supporters and pundits alike for his workrate and adaptability to be useful in several positions.

However, fundamentally he is a striker, whose job is to score goals. Yet the young England forward has netted only once in the Premier League all season, which hasn't endeared the local lad to a large portion of the United faithful.

The positives have far outweighed the negatives in what has been as an emphatic a response to last season's heartache as we could have hoped for.

However, as Sir Alex often states, we are not a club who will rest on our laurels, he wouldn't allow it.

There is an underlying philosophy of continual improvement running through the club, and although we have all but wrapped up our twentieth title, our beloved chieftain will be keeping his eye on these players, and won't let up until he has achieved everything he can from every game.

It's just what he does.

You can follow Pete on Twitter at @pistolpeteh86

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