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Fergie: united too slack

Alex Ferguson has admitted Manchester United's slack European performances will force him to reassess how to approach games at Old Trafford in the future.

Normally so solid on home soil, United have endured a disastrous campaign.

They only managed to win one of their three home matches in the Champions League and despite dropping into UEFA's secondary competition, the Red Devils have been even worse after the winter break.

Thursday's defeat by Athletic Bilbao was their second in succession after they almost tossed away a three-goal aggregate advantage against Ajax in the last round.

Even before the game, Gary Neville was declaring it was one of those years where United were taking a step back in order for their youngsters to move forward.

And after Thursday's 3-2 reverse, Ferguson feels a change in attitude is now required. "We have had a bad year in Europe," he said.

"We conceded three against Basel, two against Benfica, another three against Bilbao and two to Ajax. That tells its own story.

"Maybe it is just one of those years where we are having to restock and assess how we should approach games at home."

Ferguson conceded that without a man-of-the-match display from young goalkeeper David de Gea, the damage could have been even worse.

It was probably the reason why he didn't spend too long dwelling on that fact his team were the victims of an offside goal for Athletic's second, and half his team were arguing at the concession of a bizarre free-kick when the Basque outfit shot down the other end of the field to grab their third.

Far more responsible was Rafael's failure to react after De Gea had denied Oscar de Marcos, allowing Iker Muniain to belt the rebound into an empty net.

It was the low point of a sub-standard defensive display from the hosts, more in keeping with their early season performances which culminated in the horrendous 6-1 derby-day loss to Manchester City.

"There has been that slackness all season," said Ferguson, a view endorsed by midfielder Michael Carrick.

"We have been giving the opposition too many chances, which tells a tale," said Carrick.

"That is not just putting the blame on the defence, it is the team as a unit. We have to defend right altogether. That hasn't been the case."

The strange thing is that the European nightmares have come in the midst of some excellent form on the domestic front.


Since that near fatal wobble against Ajax, United have won at Norwich and Tottenham. Before facing the Dutch giants, they saw off Liverpool and came from three goals down to grab a point at Chelsea.

Now they must recover in time to tackle in-form West Brom at Old Trafford on Sunday. "We are desperate to win the league again and Sunday is the next game," said Carrick.

"It is massive, as they all are, and we will be ready for it."

Chris Smalling is United's main doubt, although with Rio Ferdinand due back anyway, the blow would not be too severe should the England defender not report for duty after the stitches in a head wound originally suffered playing for England re-opened.

In theory, United are now embarking on a run of easier fixtures after the tougher tasks just completed. But Carrick has been around too long to be duped by such talk, especially as West Brom were the only side to leave Old Trafford with any points last term.

"We are satisfied with the situation we are in," said Carrick. "But just because we have come through a tough two months doesn't mean we will sail through the next two nicely."