Date:Monday November 3 2008
Saturday's 4-3 defeat of Hull City prompted some soulsearching at United - mainly because of our defensive performance. Though the contribution of Mike Dean was significant, it cannot be denied that the back four was far from its imposing best.
Nemanja Vidic acknowledged that they've got to improve as a unit if United are to pick up any silverware again. Stupid mistakes cannot be tolerated.
'The most important thing is that we took the three points,' he said.
'We made a few mistakes and lost a few goals, which is not good for us, especially the defenders.'
'We can learn from the game. We made small mistakes that cost us three goals. 'I hope we can improve on that so it doesn't happen again.'
'We need to forget this game but not how we conceded the goals. That way we can make sure it doesn't happen again. We have a few days to work on that before Celtic and to improve.'
'The first goal was from a set-piece and the third came after we had a corner and we were out of position, so they were able to counter-attack.'
'These are small mistakes that don't usually happen with us. We need to learn from our mistakes but we don't need to be too worried.'
The truth is that though Rio made some terrible mistakes at Everton and gave away a penalty - which, actually, was never a penalty but never mind - it is Vidic who is generally shaky these days.
We are vulnerable from air and it is mainly down to Nemanja's lack of positioning and anticipation that he displays these days. At his best he is a tough, no-nonsense defender who is usually at the right place at the right time and his aerial dominance proved very important for United last season.
He, along with Rio and Evra, look a bit jaded mentally. He's the worst of the three at the moment and he's the one who needs to improve most. He just doesn't seem to be able to concentrate with the intensity that we got used to, therefore the back four became much more fragile.
After the heroics of last season, some complacency, some tiredness from the defenders is not a heinous crime. It is cruel that they cannot be rested, they cannot be given time to sort out their poor form on the pitch the way attackers are. A mistake up front leads to a squandered chance; a mistake at the back often leads to a goal.
Defenders are under more scrutiny but we must try and restrain ourselves from unfair criticism as obviously the defence was the basis of Champions League success. Their energy stores have not yet been completely refilled, it's true - but I hope they'll get their act together soon. In this sense the defeat at Anfield, with its tragic individual mistakes, was a timely wake-up call. With two important away games looming, the three goals conceded against Hull might actually turn out to be a blessing.
Date:Monday November 3 2008
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