Burnley defeat underlines lack of United defensive cover

Perhaps Burnley where somewhat fortuitous in the nature of their 1-0 win over Manchester United at Turf Moor last night.

Robbie Blake’s fine volley stole all three points for the home side but if the Red Devils converted their chances – including a Michael Carrick penalty – they would not have returned to Old Trafford empty handed.

For the majority of the transfer window Utd have been pursuing replacements for Cristiano Ronaldo and Cralos Tevez but perhaps they should be looking for acquisitions further back.

Even though United were on for an unprecedented quintuple last season they looked less than assured in defence when they were without Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic through injury.

Last night, with a rusty Wes Brown and Jonny Evans at the heart of their usually solid defence, they always looked as if they might concede a goal.

Rafael and Fabio da Silva will ensure that United have plenty in reserve at full back but their lack of quality centre backs could prove to be a headache – especially if Ferdinand and Vidic do not remain fit for the entire season.

With 11 days left in the transfer window, Sir Alex Ferguson may have to go back to the market to secure one high quality central defender.

After all, Utd will face much sterner away tests between now and May.


Decision time for Capello

A series of meaningless friendlies under his belt, its time for Fabio Capello to get serious as he faces the biggest decision of his tenure so far – who will lead his team.

In the aftermath of England’s easy but underwhelming win over Trinidad and Tobago, Capello revealed he had whittled down his prospective candidates to two.

The four in the running are David Beckham, Rio Ferdinand, Steven Gerrard and John Terry, Capello’s captains in his first four games, but press reports have said the “two” mentioned by Capello are Ferdinand and Terry.

Oh, when will England be blessed with a manager that learns from previous mistakes?

John Terry’s tenure as England captain showed that England do not need a defender as captain.

Terry, an influential and inspirational captain at Chelsea, could not exert his influence as England captain despite working in tandem with Ferdinand in what should be the most formidable defensive line in Europe.

I would envisage Ferdinand to have a similar impact upon the team as Terry did during his time as captain under Steve McLaren.

England’s tame surrender in the Euro 2008 qualifiers was a signal that the team required a leader, one that could drag them back into games from the brink of oblivion, which means Steven Gerrard can be the only option.

The moment he had the extra burden of responsibility thrust upon him when made Liverpool captain, Gerrard embraced it and his game improved markedly.

Admittedly his form for England has had its highs and lows, however he has been the victim of his own versatility and forced to repeatedly play out of position, but there is no denying his class.

On countless occasions he has pulled results out of nowhere for his team at the highest level, Champions League games against Olympiakos and AC Milan, and the FA Cup “Gerrard Final” spring to mind.

It is this kind of determination and inspiration that England need to ensure safe passage to World Cup 2010, and Capello needs to recognise where others have failed to.

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