Anderson backed to hit Manchester United goal trail

Michael Carrick hopes in-form midfield partner Anderson can start to improve his goals output - even if it results in him getting an ear-bashing.

After a difficult couple of years, the 22-year-old Brazilian is starting to find the form that earned him his move from Porto to Manchester United in 2007.

The effort has been rewarded by a new long-term contract and, with Paul Scholes' influence on the wane, most recently due to a groin injury, Anderson looks to be a player Sir Alex Ferguson can build a new title-winning team around.

But the one obvious area where Anderson needs to improve is in front of goal.

His recent effort against Valencia was only his second in 110 appearances for the Red Devils, a statistic Carrick expects to change.

"Hopefully there are more to come," said the England midfielder.

"He has not really mentioned it much. Maybe he is waiting until he has scored a few more. Then we won't be able to shut him up.

"Ando is just full of life. He bounces around the place.

"He has been out for long periods but he has come back with a real spring in his step.

"He is young and his best days are still ahead of him."

If there are negatives for United at present they come through Scholes' continued absence and the loss of Park Ji-sung to an Asia Cup campaign with South Korea, which is likely to mean he doesn't return until February.

Yet these seem like minor inconveniences to a side that has now extended their unbeaten run to 17 matches and are beginning to put daylight between themselves and their major rivals.

A quirk of the fixture list means Sir Alex Ferguson's men might well have been overhauled by local rivals Manchester City when they kick-off at Birmingham tonight.

Yet City would have played three games more for their single point advantage, which leaves United with plenty of breathing space before that particular initiative is surrendered.

However, veteran winger Ryan Giggs is not getting carried away.

"You are obviously wary because of the way the league has been this year," said Giggs. "Anyone can beat anyone.

"We are thankful we remain unbeaten and confidence is high. But we realise that nothing can be taken for granted.

"It is a tough league and we need to be at our best in every game."

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