Valencia and Evra say a sense of purpose and hurt drives United
There is a growing belief at Manchester United that the blow of an early Champions League exit has provided the impetus for a sustained assault on the Premier League title.
Even manager Sir Alex Ferguson has struggled to find a convincing explanation for the current run of eight wins in nine league games relates to the way the team bowed out of Europe's elite competition at the group stage.
While few are convinced by Ferguson's continued assertion that his midfield is strong enough to cope with every demand, given their current form maybe there is something in his equally vehement claim the team have quality in abundance.
And, according to Antonio Valencia and Patrice Evra, there is also a renewed sense of purpose.
"We reached the [Champions League] final last year and it hurts to go out so early. But we are using that hurt," Valencia said. "The group now tries even harder, and we are going into games with a determined attitude because we've got to win something, whether it is the Premier League, Europa League or FA Cup.
"We have to make sure we are involved in those trophies, and we have a renewed focus."
Evra, who has taken on the responsibility of captaincy after Nemanja Vidic's injury, shares the sentiment. "Going out of the Champions League was a wake-up call," Evra said. "Everyone began to look in the mirror and say: we could do much better.
"The fans expect what we are doing now. If we stop working hard and think we will only win things with the Manchester United name, everything will be wrong. We have to keep our momentum going and trust each other."
That is the basis upon which Ferguson's managerial ethos rests. The United coach looks at his squad and backs them to deliver. And, so many times, they do.
The latest example of a player coming good is Dimitar Berbatov. United's £30.75 million (Dh177m) record signing did not even make the bench for the Champions League final, and had started just one Premier League game in this campaign prior to Monday's 5-0 win over Wigan Athletic.
Yet he was the one who walked off with the match ball after his hat-trick. "This is the life at Manchester United. We have to keep the competition for every place. Everyone has to fight," Evra said.
Published: December 28, 2011 04:00 AM