United's assistant manager Mick Phelan is as thrilled as anyone by the Reds' recent winning streak and is confident there is more to come from the side in the run-in...
Is there almost a sense of relief that the side have come out of the busy New Year period so well and, indeed, seem to be getting stronger?
I think there is a sense of relief, yes. We always expect the season to be long and tough, but we are really happy with the way things have gone. We’re moving in the right direction and we are in a strong position now.
The clean sheet run now stands at 13 successive games. As coaches how proud are you of the record?
Records are not something you go out to achieve – you find yourself in with a chance of breaking them. As coaches we are here to service the players. We have ideas and ways of doing things, but mainly we’re here to benefit the players and get them fit, focused and ready to play matches. We give them a little direction and they go and produce the football and take the achievements – it’s as simple as that.
And the fact that there has not been a settled back four has made the run even more remarkable…
Yes, even though we’ve had such a good defensive record, we’ve had several injuries in that area, so we've coped very well. We’ve given debuts to a few players this year and managed to maintain the sequence of results. For new players such as Richard Eckersley, Fabio, Danny Welbeck and Darron Gibson to come in and complement the team says a lot about the squad of players we have here.
Is it pleasing to have won so many close games?
We’ve had a few 1-0 victories this season and the way we have controlled games when leading by a single goal has been very pleasing. The overall form of the team has impressed us because it is improving all the time. But there are goals in this side: everyone’s weighing in from all over the pitch and I think we’ll see more goals between now and the end of the season.
When the side is doing so well, is it a challenge to keep the players grounded?
I don’t think we have a problem with that. What we tend to do with the players is emphasise the next game and how important that is in maintaining momentum. There will be the odd strange result between now and the end of the season, but we have the experience and knowledge now to