Alex Ferguson is considering abandoning defence altogether, so exasperated has he become at Manchester United’s failure to tighten up at the back.
United head into today’s Old Trafford encounter with West Brom seven points clear of Manchester City.
Yet that seemingly healthy position belies some quite amazing defensive statistics.
A 4-3 St Stephen’s Day triumph over Newcastle means United have now conceded 28 Premier League goals, more than in their entire title-winning campaigns of 2007, 2008 and 2009.
They have conceded 38 goals in all competitions, kept just four clean sheets — and only one since October 7 — and have fallen behind on 16 occasions.
In fact, it has become so bad, Ferguson has started to wonder what it would be like if he just stopped searching for a solution.
“You analyse it in every possible detail and try to get a constant thread that tells me we have to do this or that — and it just doesn’t appear,” said Ferguson.
“Either we should not attack at all, which is not going to be Manchester United or just let our supporters live through the agony of 4-3s.
“We have not had a 5-4 yet or 6-5. That would be more exciting.”
It could be argued that such niceties as defending do not matter anyway given United’s current status.
The argument is not one Ferguson is convinced by.
“Of course it matters,” he said.
“If we are scoring four goals at home, it should be one against us or none. It is obviously a concern because it is testing us right to the very limit and making us play beyond the energy levels we need to.”
Yet Ferguson has a growing sense that no matter what he says, or which different combination of defenders he comes up with, nothing is going to change.
“I said after the Reading game that it had to stop. It hasn’t,” he said.
“Now I am saying it again. It has to stop. But it won’t. It is just one of those seasons when we seem to be giving away silly goals.”
Injuries have disrupted team selection often, apart from a couple of brief spells, he has never been able to choose the same back four.
Yet remarkably, two of the defensive mainstays, Jonny Evans and Patrice Evra have both contributed four goals, a number exceeded by only Robin van Persie, Javier Hernandez and Wayne Rooney.
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