Tuesday 6 December 2016

Rio Ferdinand: Manchester United won't win the title with that defence

Published 14/09/2015 | 13:09

Rio Ferdinand
Rio Ferdinand

Manchester United lack the defensive solidity to mount as sustained push for the Premier League title, according to Old Trafford great Rio Ferdinand.

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The retired central-defender, who won 11 major honours during is time as the leader of the United back-line, has told Independent.ie that despite the concerns over a lack of attacking firepower in Louis van Gaal’s squad, they are equally fragile in their defensive options.

The deployment of midfielder Daley Blind in a central defensive berth at the start of this season has highlighted the lack of options available to Van Gaal, with Ferdinand suggesting the their frailties at the back may be more of a worry than their lack of natural goal scorers.

After a summer that saw experienced hit-men Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao leave United and French teenager Anthony Martial the only forward added to the squad, Van Gaal is relying heavily on skipper Wayne Rooney to carry the goal burden.

As Rooney has failed to score in his last ten Premier League appearances, his status as the club's lead marksman has been questioned, yet Ferdinand suspects a different area of the United side is equally weak.

So despite United’s elevation into third place in the Premier League following their 3-1 victory over Liverpool on Saturday, Ferdinand suspects holes in their make up at both ends of the pitch will halt any dreams of a title charge.

“United needed another proven striker and the end result is there is a lot pressure on Wayne Rooney this season, we all know that, but that is not the biggest area of concern for me,” Ferdinand told Independent.ie at a BT Sport event.

“They have goals in their team, even if they don’t have too many natural strikers, but I look at the United defenders and for me, they cannot win the title with the players they have.

“They needed to sign a proper centre-half during the summer. Everyone could see that and playing Daley Blind in there at the start of the season confirms that. We all suspected they wouldn’t get Sergio Ramos from Real Madrid and in the end they didn’t sign any defenders. That was a mistake in my view.”

Van Gaal and his transfer chief Ed Woodward were frustrated in bids to sign Borussia Dortmund centre-back Mats Hummels and in their ambitious attempts to recruit Real Madrid’s  Ramos during the summer, but both players opted to stay with their current clubs.

It leaves Marcos Rojo and Paddy McNair to provide back-up to Van Gaal’s first choice starters in the heart of his defence, with Ferdinand unconvinced United have the strength in depth to get through a demanding season that will include a host of high profile Champions League games.

While Chris Smalling has started the season in impression fashion, Ferdinand suggests the fitness record of the defender Van Gaal will rely upon in the months ahead is as big a concern as the quality that offer.

“Forget the talent of the defenders United have in the squad, as my concern is they are yet to show that physically they can get sustain their fitness throughout a whole season,” adds Ferdinand.

“Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo…they are good players, but they are not always fully fit. That’s a big problem. If you are going to be successful, the foundations of a team have to be in place and you need a stable defence.

“You look at Chelsea winning the league last year and John Terry played every match. Gary Cahill was always fit, Nemanja Matic was fit, the keeper was always fit.

“These are positions that are vitally important if you are going to be successful and United have not got it right.

“Sometimes clubs are too focused on signing forward players, but all the successful United teams under Sir Alex Ferguson had a stable defence. I don’t see that at United right now.”

A Liverpool team that showed little or no ambition at Old Trafford until they were 2-0 behind did little to test a United backline that is likely to be put under more pressure in their Champions League game against PSV Eindhoven on Tuesday and in their trip Premier League to Southampton next Sunday.

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