Manchester United left to gamble with the defence as Edward Glazer cashes in £30m of shares

Louis van Gaal still faces huge problems with his squad

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As the evolving Manchester United defence was being pulled this way and that at Southampton on Monday night, 3,000 miles to the west, a member of the Glazer dynasty that owns the franchise, sorry, club, was seeking a cool £30m in a share sale that represents just two per cent of the business.

It is a blessing that Louis van Gaal believes he does not need to spend to bolster his rearguard. Every penny that goes into Edward Glazer’s pocket is for private use. While young Ed breaks no rule in cashing his chips, the sell-off illustrates the brazen commercial nature of the relationship between owner and a club still saddled with obscene debt.

If love were any part of the equation, the Glazers might focus on erasing the £350m owed in order to nourish the organisation in a way that respects its past and protects its future. Yes they are prepared to inject a chunk into the January transfer kitty, said to be £150m, but that hardly balances the damage done to a squad that was run down in the latter part of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign.

If the ownership model worked in the interests of the club instead of the owners, Van Gaal might be plotting the next phase of a Champions League campaign instead of fixing a broken team by playing a midfielder of Michael Carrick’s class at centre-back, and gambling on the suspect knees of a striker whose fitness he does not trust.

He would have liked to have given Radamel Falcao a crack at Southampton but couldn’t because his team were manning the pumps at the other end, conjuring an escape that might make a film one day, one that features big Louis at the gates of St Mary’s on a Harley, maybe?

While it is true that Van Gaal has centre-halves coming out of his ears, the issue is about quality. Of course, that is his call; after all, what does anyone else know that he doesn’t? If the requirement is not to buy, then he must do better on the coaching front to instil some idea of how to play with three at the back.

Gary Neville’s description of United as a pub team flattered them for much of the contest at St Mary’s. “Got away with murder” was the expression used.


How illuminating that Van Gaal should find offence in the commentary of a former player, honestly given and entirely justified. In the bending of the ethical code to suit the mood, Van Gaal showed himself to be a worthy successor to Ferguson, a zero-tolerance potentate who took the lead piping to his critics irrespective of the validity of the arguments made. “As an ex-legend, or legend, he should pay attention to his words,” snapped Van Gaal, eyes ablaze with indignation.

On Sunday United face Liverpool, a team with their own issues and nothing like the helping hand from providence that has ushered the old enemy into the Premier League top three for the first time since May last year, when Ferguson held aloft the Premier League trophy for the final time.

Manchester United's Robin van Persie (R) scores his team's second goal during their English Premier League soccer match against Southampton at St Mary's Stadium in Southampton, southern England


Presumably Paddy McNair will not feature, even if the three-man defence survives. McNair was removed for his own good after 41 minutes on Monday night as Van Gaal made hasty repairs to his failing back line.

“He [McNair] hadn’t any confidence. He had already given three big chances away. I had to [substitute him], it’s very disappointing for me and also for Paddy, but I had to because as a manager I’m responsible to win. And I think, after the change, we played a little better.”

Carrick stepped into the breach, bringing a cool head and sense of order to proceedings. An inveterate optimist, Carrick is looking forward to the Liverpool challenge. “There’s definitely more to come from us, it’s all about getting the points on the board and now is the time to carry that on.”