Manchester United's makeshift defence is cause for concern
Everton defeat has focused attention on injuries to key defenders
AFTER Manchester United lost their opening game of the season against Everton questions are being asked about why Alex Ferguson was forced to field a makeshift defence featuring Michael Carrick alongside Nemanja Vidic in the middle and Antonio Valencia at full back.
While United have signed striker Robin van Persie along with midfielders Shinji Kagawa and Nick Powell this summer, they also ended their pre-season preparations with four of their five senior centre backs out injured and no new defenders on the books.
"At what point does an injury crisis cease to be seen as misfortune?" asked The Times, which noted that United's rearguard are no strangers to the treatment table.
The paper pointed out that it is not the first time that midfielder Carrick has been forced to play at the back. "To lose four central defenders to injury once might be considered unfortunate. Twice and it starts to look strange. For a third time in less than three years means that questions start to be asked."
The paper quoted Armenian coach Raymond Verheijen, who has worked with Manchester City and Wales, and is a critic of the way Premier League clubs handle their players.
He took to Twitter to ask: "Who is in charge of the periodisation, conditioning and injury prevention at Man United? Who is responsible for this injury crisis?"
Ferguson has already admitted that he will probably have to field the same makeshift back four against Fulham this weekend, something that will give the Cottagers cause for optimism. Jonny Evans should be fit soon, but Rio Ferdinand is out until the middle of next month, Chris Smalling is not expected back until October and Phil Jones has an ongoing back problem.
Ferguson has now signed Dutch defender Alex Buttner from Vitesse Arnhem but his arrival has hardly set the pulses racing. "The last person to sound this surprised at signing for United was Bebe," said The Independent.
The paper added that United's defensive frailties were overlooked during the summer as attention focused on its big guns. "Few had predicted what Everton might do to an utterly threadbare defence," it said.
Now the world is starting to take note of United's defensive woes. "Manchester United urgently need to sort out their defensive issues or their title hopes could be over even before Christmas," warns Singaporean paper Today.