Sir Alex Ferguson will be demanding a response from his Manchester United players when they travel to Goodison Park to face Everton in the Barclays Premier League, says Denis Irwin.

The former Red Devil expects the champions to get back to winning ways in Saturday's early kick-off, and despite the tough test he knows the Toffees will provide, Irwin is confident of securing three points.

"I'm looking forward to the Everton game," he told MUTV. "The manager will be looking for a reaction.

"Everton away will be hard but I think we can now look to pick up, say, 26 points from the next 30 [eight wins and two draws]. It was painful against City, particularly the last five minutes.

"But it's happened to us before - I played in a team that went up to Newcastle and got beat 5-0 and, the following week, travelled down to Southampton and were beaten 6-3. It's happened to us before.

"You have to put them behind you. We've had a fantastic start to the season and played some tough games against all the top teams. Stoke away is as tough as any match in the Barclays Premier League now and Bolton away is hard for us so seven of the nine games have been really tough."

United currently sit second in the table - five points behind neighbours Manchester City after last weekend's derby humbling at Old Trafford.

Irwin concedes that whilst it is an unfamiliar position for the Red Devils to be in, he is sure the players will be doing everything they can to make up ground on their local rivals, and points to a settled back-four with the return of captain Nemanja Vidic as a crucial base to build on.

"Five points behind City is not nice," he added. "We're not used to being behind City but we're only a quarter of the way through the season so let's hope we make up ground. Traditionally, we're better in the second half of the season so that augurs well.

"In the last month or so, we've come off the boil a little bit. Defensively, we haven't looked as sound this year but we haven't had a settled back-four yet.

"We've attacked at will but, certainly, we need our back-four to be in there playing every week so we need a little bit of luck with injuries.

"The players are always under pressure here and they're in the spotlight even more. It's how they react on the back of that and it's why the manager brings players here, because they can handle the pressure."

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