physically. I’ve always been more of a reader of the game and I think I maybe let that slip out of my own game. So I basically just went back and looked at what I was good at and concentrated on the things that came naturally to me.
The manager recently hailed your quality at bringing the ball out of defence – is that something you’ve worked particularly hard on?
I think it’s always been a big strength of my game right from when I was a kid. I always thought it was a good attribute I could bring to the team but when I first broke in the main thing I wanted to do was concentrate on my defending. I thought if I did that well for a couple of years then the other things [like distribution] would come and this season I think I’ve managed to combine both.
With Chris Smalling’s emergence and the arrival of Phil Jones, did you always feel this season was going to be an important one for you?
Every season here is important. If you let your standards drop you won’t be here for long because the standards set by the manager, the coaches, the players and the fans are so high. Everyone has periods in their career when they have dips in form and I’m no different. It’s just about accepting that and trying to do something about it. That’s what I’ve done.
It must be nice to get recognition for your displays outside the club…
I’m not bothered about recognition to be honest. I’ve learnt in recent years how recognition can easily go out of the window; it doesn’t last forever. I just go out there and try to enjoy my football and do my best. I don’t pay attention to anything else outside.
Finally, is the desire to win the title this season even greater given who are nearest challengers are?
There is always a desire no matter who is challenging. It’s not just about Manchester City or whichever team is challenging, it’s about you wanting to create more history at Manchester