Five things Manchester United must do to keep themselves in title race

Falcao celebrates scoring the equaliser against Villa (©GettyImages)

A 1-1 draw on Saturday against Aston Villa brought the Red Devils' winning run to a halt.

It also meant that Chelsea were allowed to pull ten points clear of United with a 2-0 win over Stoke on Monday.

But despite this they can still be challenging at the top come May - provided they do the following five things.

Play Carrick in midfield

Manchester United winning six games on the spin coincided with the return of Michael Carrick from injury. And despite the fact that he has done well when played in a back three during this time, he is and always will be a midfielder and that is where United need him.

His vision of finding players in advanced positions is superb and he rarely gives possession away. Not to mention he is the only player right now who can play that anchor role in midfield.

So for United to keep the pressure on the top two, Carrick needs to be in the middle of the park pulling the strings.

Solve the injury crisis

Without a doubt a major problem for United this season has been the alarming amount of injuries. A total of 43 injuries has plagued the club since the start of the season.

Major players like Di Maria, Falcao, Carrick, Jones have already missed a big chunk of the season through various problems.

In such a massive injury conundrum it can't be put down to simply just bad luck. Whether it is the training regime or a lack of fitness or a mixture of both, Van Gaal and co must find a way to get to the root of this problem and find a solution if they want to keep this good run of form going.

Scrap the 3-5-2

After using the 3-5-2 formation during Netherlands' successful World Cup campaign during the summer, Louis van Gaal started the season at United with the same system.

It was met with criticism from pundits as the United players failed to adapt to the unorthodox three-man defence. It was then ditched for the more straight forward 4-3-3 formation.

But the 3-5-2 has still been deployed by Van Gaal in some of the games. Understandably so he has been forced on occasion to play the system due to the lack of natural and experienced defenders but United have never been convincing playing three at the back.

And now with the injury troubles starting to loosen up a bit, Van Gaal must once and for all throw 3-5-2 out of the window.

Buy a new centre-back in January

With Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand departing in the summer, further question marks were placed on United's defence which had already looked quite vulnerable last season.

Injuries and a change in the system hasn't helped the cause since the start of this season. The fact that United have played the same back line consecutively only twice so far this season due to the injury problems have been a major reason that David de Gea has had to make so many saves game after game. But despite that, what United have missed most is quality leadership at the back, something the current crop of defenders cannot offer.

Which is why United desperately need to sign a strong and powerful centre back in the winter transfer window, that can lead the defence with authority. Mats Hummels pops up as the ideal candidate.

The German is at the peak of his career and is the perfect man to shore up the defence. But admitedly he will be hard to get in January, so someone along the likes of Ron Vlaar or Diego Godin could be an equally good purchase and easier to pull off.

Be consistent with team selection

And at the end an important factor that could define United's season is consistency. Not only in results but also in the playing XI.

If we look at all the major clubs around Europe, they have a base of 6-7 players that play week in week out. If we look at the United side of last season a major problem for them was the chop and change policy of David Moyes.

He very rarely played the same side twice in a row, which meant that the back line especially wasn't able to strike up an understanding and the team as a result suffered. The same problem has been effecting Manchester United this season although it is mostly due to injuries.

If they are able to overcome this problem and field a consistent team, it will go a long way in helping them chase down Manchester City and Chelsea.

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