Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 December 2014

Ferguson: No more sloppy defending

The absence of Rio Ferdinand early in the campaign has not helped United
The absence of Rio Ferdinand early in the campaign has not helped United

Sir Alex Ferguson has demanded that Manchester United stop conceding the soft goals that are threatening to derail their Barclays Premier League title bid.

United entertain Wigan on Saturday looking to record their third successive victory. Yet they do so only after being given two massive scares by Fulham and Southampton, who both came close to snatching points off Ferguson's team.

And whilst Ferguson is delighted with a six-goal haul from those two games immediately before the international break, he knows such a prolific return cannot be relied upon. He said: "We are losing soft goals at the moment. Do we have to score three in every game to win? I don't want to go down that road."

He continued: "We are going to address it, as we did last year, because defending is every bit as important as the goals we are scoring. There are goals in our team, there is no question about that. But the other end needs balancing out."

The continued fitness of Rio Ferdinand alongside Nemanja Vidic is bound to help. Ferdinand missed the first two games with a leg injury, but returned at Southampton to clock up his 399th United appearance.

It means he is one of three senior players on the brink of a landmark, with Ryan Giggs' next Premier League appearance to make him the first player to reach 600. And fellow old stager Paul Scholes needs to feature once more to become only the third United player - after Giggs and Sir Bobby Charlton - to make 700 appearances for the club.

"It is a landmark for three key players," said Ferguson. "It is a great example to younger players of what could be achieved if you sacrifice in the game of football. These players have had to do that, otherwise they would never have got to this stage."

Inevitably, the question of how long they might go on for was raised. And whilst Giggs is the elder statesman at 38, Ferguson expects the Welshman to go on longer than Scholes. The United boss said: "Ryan could probably play for another couple of years. Paul is a different physical specimen and has had his injuries."

Meanwhile, Darren Fletcher will return to the squad, representing a significant step forward in the midfielder's bid to conquer a chronic bowel condition.

"He is in the squad tomorrow, simply because I think it can give him a boost," said Ferguson.

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