Jadon Sancho.

'We can't repeat our mistakes'

Monday 24 January 2022 16:37

Former Manchester United players Denis Irwin and Ben Thornley believe it is imperative Manchester United follow up the positive end to January with a strong month of results in the Premier League.

The Reds are making the most of a short break before returning to action in the Emirates FA Cup fourth round, against Middlesbrough a week on Friday.

Following the morale-boosting win over West Ham United, The Debate looked at the run of fixtures coming up in February, which can hopefully lead to more points on the board in the battle for a top-four slot.

Irwin and Thornley were joined by Stewart Gardner and David May to discuss all the topics arising from the dramatic last-gasp triumph on Saturday.

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"We've got to take advantage of that really," said ex-defender Irwin, when asked about a fixture list that features games against Burnley, Southampton, Leeds United and Watford.

"We know the Premier League and how difficult it is, to go away to some of these places, and we know travelling to Elland Road, what that's like and how hard it is. But it is an opportunity to get as many points under our belts as possible before we hit the big games in March, when the run of games is really, really tough. Listen, Burnley are scrapping, Southampton are a good team at the moment, Watford are scrapping, as are Leeds. There are no easy games but we have to take advantage of it, we really do.

"We have a couple of games in hand on Chelsea and we're in a dogfight at the moment. Spurs have a couple of games in hand, there's Arsenal as well. But we can only look after ourselves. That's what we did at the weekend. We won on Saturday and it put a little bit of pressure on Arsenal and Spurs.

"We need to keep moving forward and take the proverbial one game at a time and keep it at that."

Former winger Thornley was in agreement and felt United need to learn our lesson from earlier in the season, when we were unable to make the sort of start that would have helped overcome a taxing run of fixtures.

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"Our March is very similar to our November," said Thornley. "If you remember, we all thought the run of games we had at the start of the season, leading up to then was a real chance for us to get some points on board before we hit Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Spurs.

"We can't make that same mistake again. It's a really good run of games now. Not only do we need to win but, enveloped in that, is capitalising on undoubtedly the other clubs around us dropping points. I think, if we can do that, going into the games in March, we won't make the same mistakes. We'll be going into them with a lot more confidence, knowing it's in our own hands to stay in the position we're going to find ourselves in.

"We can do that by winning and our next three or four games are very, very winnable. It's difficult with teams scrapping hard and places to go where there is an element of a little bit more anxiety, as you do [have that] as a footballer, but also with confidence. If you get yourselves over the line, the chances of finishing fourth or even third and putting pressure on Liverpool in second, is something Manchester United need to be doing this season."

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4: Middlesbrough (H) 20:00, FA Cup
8: Burnley (A) 20:00
12: Southampton (H) 12:30
20: Leeds (A) 14:00
23: Atletico Madrid (A) 20:00, Champions League
26: Watford (H) 15:00

All times in GMT.