AT the risk of putting the jinx on the Wanderers in the build-up to Saturday’s Old Trafford derby, I’ve got a feeling this could be a good time to be playing Manchester United.

Don’t get me wrong, they can play some good stuff and they are still a great side, but I don’t think they’ve been all that convincing so far this season and you have to say they were lucky to rescue a point at home to Sunderland before the international break.

And when you look back at the way Kevin Davies and the lads played against Tottenham on the same day, there’s no reason to fear going there — provided they can play to their best, with maximum effort, for 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100 minutes — or even more!

We used to talk about 90 minutes of football, but not any more.

I’ve heard Gary Megson’s had the lads back in for training in the afternoons because he knows they might have to play for as long as 120 minutes, if United aren’t winning when normal time is up.

Obviously, I’m joking but there’s no denying that Old Trafford can be an intimidating place to visit — for players and referees alike.

It’s hardly the place to be going when you’ve had quite a few of your players away on international duty.

No wonder managers are always complaining about international fixtures disrupting plans. How can you prepare for a massive Premiership game when you hardly have half a squad to work with until Thursday afternoon?

Okay, this current round of games are World Cup qualifiers, so you have to accept that situation which, of course, is the same for all teams.

But managers have every right to get frustrated at having to release players for friendlies which can drag them half way across the world to play just for 45 minutes of a meaningless game.

I’m sure the supporters will be up for it on Saturday and, judging by the interest in the Chelsea game, I’m sure they’ll be up for it when we go to Chelsea in the Carling Cup the week after next.

The chairman’s offer of free travel and Chelsea’s decision to drop prices to £19.50 has caused a big surge in demand and the latest figures show that the White Army will be taking 19 coaches down, which is terrific for a Wednesday night and just shows that the away support can be different class.

The Youth team are going from strength to strength. I saw them beat Liverpool 1-0 at the weekend to stretch their unbeaten run to six games that has taken them up to second in the league.

They’re playing some good stuff too, so the future’s looking bright.