People talk about the title race being back on after the midweek results, but I don’t think it was ever off. It’s only ever finished when someone is confirmed as champions.
Obviously before Wednesday’s defeat at Wigan we had a very healthy lead over Manchester City, but despite the fact the advantage has been cut to five points we’re still very much in pole position. We’ve now got two home games to come and you always have to feel confident we can get the job done at Old Trafford.
Neither Sunday’s game against Aston Villa or next weekend’s match against Everton are going to be easy though because every team is fighting for points. We saw that on Wednesday at the DW Stadium where Wigan pulled off a shock win. It was just one of those off nights for us. There have been plenty in the past and there will be plenty more in the future. It wasn't about complacency, it was simply just an off day. You have to give credit to Wigan for the way they played, but not enough of our players played well and to the standard we’ve seen in the last few months. Those nights can happen and when they do you just have to forget about them and move on.
People have talked about how much we missed Paul Scholes the other night but he isn’t the sole reason why we lost. Of course he’s important, but we all know he won’t play every game. He’s 37 now and the manager knows how best to manage players - it would be a lot to ask Scholesy to play three games in a week. Sir Alex has said he’ll be back on Sunday though and that will only benefit us.
Getting over a defeat quickly is very important. Players think about things differently to supporters – when you’re on a really good run you never get on too much of a high like fans do, and on the flipside when you lose games you can’t allow yourself to get too down. You have to move forward and look to put things right as soon as possible, and that’s what United are always very good at doing.
City bounced back from their defeat at Arsenal with a win over West Brom in midweek, but a trip to Norwich is no easy task for any team. We had to wait until injury time to get a winner when we went there in February. Paul Lambert has done a fantastic job at Carrow Road. Not that long ago they were bottom of League One... they’re already safe this season which is a tremendous achievement. They’ve almost gone under the radar because Swansea have taken so many of the plaudits, but Norwich deserve a lot of credit for the way they have gone about their business on the pitch this season.
Even though we’ll know the result of the City/Norwich game before we kick-off on Sunday afternoon our focus should very much just be on ourselves and getting the job done against Villa. We can’t influence what happens at Carrow Road on Saturday lunchtime and our players have great experience of staying focused at this time of the season. We need to do that again.
I think Villa will take a similar approach to that taken by Fulham and QPR. They’re quite a defensive-minded side anyway and they’d be delighted to get anything out of the game at Old Trafford. Villa are hovering just above the relegation zone and I think the teams down there tend to concentrate more on their home games as that’s where they feel they can win. Anything you get away from home is a bonus. For that reason, I expect them to come here and put up a defensive shield and try to make things difficult for us. It can be frustrating, but it’s important to stay patient in that situation. And if we play our normal football I’d be very surprised if we don't pick up three points.
Our great run may have come to an end at Wigan but now it’s time to go on another until the end of the season. Five points clear with five games to go is still a healthy lead, but there’s still plenty of hard work to be done over the next month.