United back in title race, says Patrice Evra
Manchester: Patrice Evra believes Manchester United have got their hunger back as the Premier League champions look to make it five league wins in a row against Tottenham on New Year's Day.
United moved up to sixth with a narrow 1-0 win over Norwich on Saturday, marking the half-way point of what has been an inconsistent season for the reigning champions, who are still adapting to life under new manager David Moyes.
They now face Spurs and new boss Tim Sherwood at Old Trafford on Wednesday as they enter the second half of the campaign eight points adrift of leaders Arsenal and three points behind fourth-placed Everton in the race for Champions League qualification.
But France defender Evra believes his team-mates have now recovered their hunger and are looking forward to mounting a charge in 2014 in a bid to retain their title.
"I'm just looking at the present moment in time," he said. "The team is now playing better, we have that winning mentality and United spirit which was missing at the start of the season.
"I can see that our hunger has come back, so I'm confident, but I don't want to talk about the title.
"I just want to talk about the next game, Tottenham at home on Wednesday. We need to make sure that we win and that we keep the momentum going."
United striker Wayne Rooney missed the win over Norwich with a slight groin strain, while his fellow forward Robin van Persie is nearing a return after missing a number of weeks with a thigh strain, although Moyes remains coy about the timetable for the Dutchman's comeback.
"Robin has started some light training and he might not be too far away," said Moyes.
"We haven't often had Robin and Wayne as a strike partnership, so I look forward to getting them back together."
Evra is also desperate to have the pair back and he believes that when they return, United will have the strongest team in the Premier League.
"The squad is strong but it is not only about one player," he added.
"We were also without Wayne and Robin when we played against Stoke, and when they come back we'll be even stronger, which is why I'm so happy.
"With them, we are the strongest team in the Premier League, so we have to keep winning -- with or without them."
Tottenham head to Old Trafford unbeaten in three Premier League games since the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas and boosted by a convincing 3-0 victory over Stoke on Sunday.
That brought an end to a disappointing run of results at White Hart Lane and was kick-started by a penalty from Roberto Soldado, the Spain forward's first league goal in two months.
"It was a really important win for us because we haven't won at home for a while," Soldado said.
"Of course scoring the goal felt good and that started us off for a fantastic win.
"We were really ambitious and went at them from the first minute. That paid off. We pressed and pressed and winning the game meant everything to us."
Sherwood's team selections have so far made the most of the attacking options at his disposal and Belgian midfielder Mousa Dembele, who was also on target against Stoke, insists Spurs have no reason to fear the trip to Manchester.
"I am not scared to go there," Dembele said.
"They are a top team and we have a lot of respect for them of course, but we have a very good team too.
"We can't have too much respect. We have to play our own game. We can do something there, why not?"
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Date 27-03-14, Duration 1:52, Views 482