Defensive matters on Fergie's mind

  • Last Updated: September 3 2012, 8:08 BST

Sir Alex Ferguson knows that Manchester United's defence needs to improve if they are going to challenge for the title again.

Rickie Lambert nets against United

Team Score Team
Southamptn 2 - 3 Man Utd

The Red Devils have conceded five goals in their three opening Barclays Premier League games, with two coming at St Mary's on Sunday.

Ferguson's side were poor at the back during their 3-2 victory over Southampton despite the return of Rio Ferdinand alongside Nemanja Vidic.

The once-formidable partnership looked shaky in their first game together since a 2-1 Champions League defeat to Basle last December and Ferguson knows they need to improve.

"I think it is an important issue, there's no question [about it]," the United boss said.

"I think throughout the years we've had two centre-backs playing regularly that impacts on the whole team, right from Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister, to Jaap Stam and Ronny Johnsen.

"Last season when we had Jonny Evans and Rio Ferdinand for a long period our performance was at its best."

Position Player Score
1 Chelsea 9
2 Swansea 7
3 West Brom 7
4 Man City 7
5 Man Utd 6
6 Everton 6

Those defensive frailties would have cost United had it not been for Robin van Persie making up for his poor penalty attempt with two goals in the final three minutes.

Rickie Lambert had headed the hosts in front after 16 minutes and they responded well to Van Persie's leveller as Morgan Schneiderlin put them in front once again in the second half.

However, it was not to be for Southampton and, while Van Persie will take the headlines, Ferguson was quick to highlight the 61st-minute introduction of Paul Scholes as the game-changing moment.

"We didn't start playing until Paul Scholes came on the pitch, to be honest with you," he said. "I thought he changed the game right around.

"We worked all week on the strength of Southampton with their back post crosses and they scored two goals from it.

"We have got to give them credit for that, they are good at it. In that period when they scored the second we were well out of it.

"Paul Scholes came on and brought composure, a consistency of passing and made the difference."

The result leaves Southampton bottom of the table without any points from their three opening matches.

Things do not get any easier for them after the international break with a trip to Arsenal next up but, despite that, manager Nigel Adkins remains upbeat.

"We're going to remain positive," he said.

"We knew that the first four games of the campaign would tough when we looked at the fixtures.

"There's loads of positives. We're a newly-promoted football club, the team has done great and we've just brought a few more players in during the transfer window.

"The lads will go on international duty now and come back, regroup and we'll look forward to the next game, Arsenal away."