The toughest lessons are indelibly imprinted on the memory and Gary Neville believes that Manchester United’s surrender in the 2011/12 Barclays Premier League title race is fuelling the Reds’ charge for success on all fronts this term.
On that basis, the 12 points that currently separate United and nearest challengers Manchester City should be viewed as impressive but not impenetrable.
Neville, who has been the through most epic season finales in United’s recent history, urges the players to allow the momentum of the season’s run-in to propel them onwards.
Now a club ambassador, Neville wrote in his United Review column for the Everton game: “After being eight points clear last year with six games to go only to lose the title, knowing the players in that dressing room, they’ll be saying: “There’s no way that will happen again.’
"There’s a mechanism that kicks in which says to you: ‘I’ve been here before, I know what happened last time we were in this position.’
“Another important difference from last year is that we look a better team. Since Christmas, not only are we still scoring goals, we’ve got more defenders back and we’re conceding fewer. Conceding one or none is far better than the twos and threes we were letting in previously.
"In the last [seven] league games we’ve had [four] clean sheets and let in three goals – that’s a significant improvement; in defensive terms, it’s championship-winning form.”
Striking a balance between defensive solidity and a goal threat will be crucial at home and abroad according to the Reds legend. “We’ve got a real balance now at a key time of the year, going into February and with the Campions League resuming,” he added.
“Around now, the fixtures give you a real concentration and tightness. The games creep up on you and start to fall away really quickly. [But] you can always have bad