Sir Alex Ferguson has warned his Manchester United players to abandon the "cavalier attitude" that has crept into their game - otherwise they will not win the Premier League.
Ferguson was bewildered by his players' approach against Basle in midweek when United conceded three goals in the second half and were lucky not to lose before scoring an equaliser to make it 3-3 in the last minute.
At least Ferguson will be able to pick from a stronger squad when Norwich visit tomorrow, with Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Jonny Evans all back from injury, but the United manager's over-riding message is about cutting out defensive carelessness.
He told a news conference at United's Carrington training ground: "The way we are playing at the moment there's a cavalier attitude to it.
"Maybe people enjoy it but it certainly doesn't win leagues so we have to do better defensively.
"People say our performance on Tuesday was careless and we underestimated our opponents and maybe there's an element of truth in that. I certainly wasn't happy, even in the first half I could smell we were too relaxed and we could have lost three goals in the first half."
Ferguson pointed out that when Basle scored their second goal, a header by Alexander Frei, United had only one player in the penalty area challenging the striker.
He added: "We were too cavalier. On the second goal for instance we had only one defender in the penalty box. Patrice Evra was out wide tracking the boy who crossed it, Fabio was playing outside right, Phil Jones was in centre midfield. There was only Rio Ferdinand in the penalty box.
"I know it was a fantastic cross but it's an unfair advantage to only have one defender in the penalty box.
"We have to balance attack and defence and that's why it's called a team. A team functions in all parts, understanding each other's parts and we're too cavalier at the moment."
Ferguson is anxious for his players not to underestimate Paul Lambert's Norwich tomorrow despite the lack of star players in the Canaries squad.
Lambert played for Borussia Dortmund when the Bundesliga side knocked United out of the Champions League in the 1997 semi-finals and went on to become European champions, and Ferguson said his fellow Scot had learned much from his time in Germany.
"Norwich have made a terrific start. You look at Norwich and see full houses every week. There's something happening down there, a vibrancy about the place," said the United manager. "I remember Paul as a kid at St Mirren and the next time he faced me, he was at Dortmund when we played the Champions League semi-final.
"He's one of the few Scotsmen to win a European medal outside a Scottish team. He learned everything there.
"He's started out well at Norwich, they're playing with a great sense of purpose and you can see progress every week. It's been a good move for the lad."
Ferguson hopes to have Nemanja Vidic, Tom Cleverly and Chris Smalling back from their injuries after the international break but admits that for Vidic and Cleverly particularly the Liverpool game on October 15 may come too soon.
"Vida and Tom will need to do a lot of good training to be considered for that sort of match," he said.Reuse content