Tuesday Team Talk: Sorting the Manchester United defence is a must if Sir Alex wants to wrestle back title

By Matthew Lees

If Manchester United have serious ambitions of winning this season’s Premier League they really need to sort out their defence.

A re-occurrence of a lack of defensive cover is causing problems for United already.

Injuries to Nemanja Vidic, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Jonny Evans have left  United relying on inexperienced youngsters at the back.

Michael Keane, Marnick Vermijl and Scott Wooton provide cover but only Wotton has any Football League experience.

All three recently made their debut but United should have more experienced players at their disposal.

Injury crises can affect lots of teams but for a title-challenging side to have one so early in the season shows the need United had for defenders in the transfer window.

While some fans derided them in the past, John O’Shea and Wes Brown helped to provide valuable defensive cover.

World class Premier League strikers will be licking their licks at prospect of playing against United minus key defenders.

United seemed relatively happy with their transfer dealings-Robin Van Persie, Shinji Kagawa, Nick Powell, Alexander Buttner and Angelo Henriquez.

Signing a world class striker from rivals Arsenal, a creative midfielder with European experience and potential future starlets seemed good business.

However, apart from Buttner – a full back signed from Vitesse Arnhem – there were no other defensive reinforcements for Manchester United.

Why did Ferguson not try and sign another defender especially with Vidic’s injury last season and both Patrice Evra and Rio Ferdinand in their thirties?

Manchester City on the other hand strengthened their defence in the summer by selling their weak link Stefan Savic and replacing him with the highly-rated Matija Nastasic.

Maicon although now in his thirties, will help to provide a wealth of experience with his four Serie A medals and a Champions League medal.

City also have Micah Richards and Kolo Toure, with international caps, to call on in the event of a defensive crisis.

The marquee signing of Van Persie has shadowed United’s light defence by creating a myth that it was a lack of goals that cost them the title last season.

United did not have any problems scoring goals last season as they scored 89 goals in the league.

This was the most goals in a season for them during the Premier League era, except for the 1999/2000 season highlighting the fact it was defensive problems that caused them problems.

United conceding six against title rivals Manchester City in the derby was a reason why the title went to the Etihad.

If the score had been just 2-0 then goal difference, goals scored and goals conceded would have all been the same.

United could have settled for the 1-0 score when they went down to 10 men and ended up winning the league.

Surrendering a 4-1 lead to Everton at Old Trafford was another factor as United conceded two in the last ten minutes.

Here United’s defence or lack of defence was there for all to see.

Even though City managed just one extra clean sheet last season, United shipped three or more goals in games against Newcastle, City, Everton and Chelsea.

This season defensive errors have continued by conceding sloppy goals against Fulham and Southampton while also giving a two goal lead against Tottenham.

Midfielder Michael Carrick played in defence in the opening game against Everton that ended in defeat, and Fulham which seemed odd as the transfer window was still open.

Mikael Silvestre started training at Carrington yesterday but Sam Allardyce declined the chance to sign him for West Ham.

It shows how deep the defensive crisis has gone that United are even considering offering a contract to a player who was sold in the summer of 2008.

Three years ago, United’s defence went on a record breaking run of 14 successive clean sheets, which seems unlikely now with Smalling, Vidic, and Jones having long term injuries.

Games like tonight’s against FCR Cluj offer a chance for Wooton to gain experience but after last season’s debacle in Europe it is a gamble.

With games against Chelsea and Arsenal coming up in the next month Ferguson will be hoping his injured defenders return sooner rather than later.

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