Manchester United's 'cartoon' defending a worry ahead of derby against Manchester City admits Alex Ferguson

United conceded three goals against Reading at the weekend

Sir Alex Ferguson is scared Manchester United's cartoon defending is going to prove very costly in Sunday's Manchester derby.

Ferguson appeared to dash hopes of Nemanja Vidic returning to lend a hand when he ruled the Serbian out of tomorrow's Champions League encounter with CFR Cluj at Old Trafford.

United need some sort of assistance, though. In conceding 32 goals so far this season, including three in quite awful fashion at Reading on Saturday, Ferguson said he could not remember a time when his side's defence had been so leaky this side of Christmas.

It was actually 2001-02, when United conceded 39 goals in their first 23 games, and 41 before Santa made his way down the chimney.

Clearly, though, it is no laughing matter for Ferguson, especially when he considers what is lying in wait on the other side of town this weekend.

"It is a worry," said Ferguson.

"If we perform like that on Sunday then God knows what's going to happen to us.

"We've lost 32 goals already - I can't remember us losing so many goals before Christmas.

"Saturday was like Cartoon Cavalcade and when you see City have Balotelli, Dzeko - really tall players - it's going to be a big challenge.

"It's a concern. But that's on Sunday. It's five days away but at this moment in time it feels like five months."

Ferguson's reasoning is that there are so many issues to resolve by then, focusing on a game which is not right in front of him is pointless.

Yet, history suggests the United boss is not beyond clouding the issue himself in order to suit his own ends.

So, whilst Ferguson's words on Vidic's readiness to play after September knee surgery were clear enough, until the Serbian actually fails to make the United squad, either tomorrow or at the weekend, they will be greeted with some degree of scepticism.

"I don't think Nemanja will play (tomorrow)," said Ferguson.

"He feels he needs another few days' training so he won't be available.

"He's not far away. He's training well now but I think another few days will bring him on better.

"But if he doesn't play tomorrow there's no chance he'll play in the derby game, although I wasn't considering Nemanja for Sunday anyway."

There is something contradictory about the last statement, especially as the United boss also raised the potential for Shinji Kagawa returning after two months out this weekend, even though Vidic trained with the main group at Carrington this morning and the Japan international did not.

"Kagawa started running today and may make the bench [against City]," said Ferguson.

"The injury has taken longer than we thought but he's much better now."

The Red Devils are resigned to wide men Nani and Antonio Valencia missing out, though, which is why Ferguson is likely to use three strikers tomorrow, including Wayne Rooney.

More than once this season, Ferguson has raised the issue of Rooney's fitness after injury lay-offs.

And even though the England man's most recent absence with tonsillitis only amounted to two games in the middle of last month, Ferguson is not intending the 27-year-old to be one of the star men who gets a rest tomorrow.

"Wayne needs to play a lot of games to get his match-fitness up," he said.

"He's a strongly built lad and when he misses two games it takes him three games to come back.

"It's the way he's always been.

"He'll play tomorrow night and hopefully that brings him on further because Saturday was his best performance of the season so far."

PA

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Jamie and Emily Pharro discovering their friend's prank
video
News
i100
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
people
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan in What If
filmReview: Actor swaps Harry Potter for Cary Grant in What If
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Travel
travel
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Pornography is more accessible - and harder to avoid - than ever
news... but they still admit watching it
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment