Fergie worried by defence

Sir Alex Ferguson has admitted Manchester United will need to tighten up defensively if they are to wrestle the title away from Manchester City (United 2/1 – Premier League outright).

Robin van Persie was on hand to save United’s blushes at Southampton on Sunday with a hat-trick after the Red Devils twice fell behind against the Premier League new boys.

For the second week running United were involved in another 3-2 thriller as van Persie struck deep into injury time to secure all three points.

Ferguson’s team have now conceded five goals in the first three games of the season and look far from assured at the back, despite the return of Rio Ferdinand at St Mary’s.

Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic used to form the bedrock of United’s defence but looked shaky in their first game back together since December.

Ferguson admits he would like to have the duo available on a regular basis as he believes having a long-standing centre-back partnership is the key to keeping United watertight.

“I think it is an important issue, there’s no question [about it],” the United boss said.

“I think throughout the years we’ve had two centre-backs playing regularly that impacts on the whole team, right from Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister, to Jaap Stam and Ronny Johnsen.

“Last season when we had Jonny Evans and Rio Ferdinand for a long period our performance was at its best.”

United (13/2 – FA Cup outright) do have a couple of defensive injuries to cope, with Phil Jones and Chris Smalling currently unavailable.

As yet there is no word on when the duo will be back in action as the Red Devils continue to struggle to diagnose the cause of Jones’ back problem.

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