Paul Parker

United need a defender

Paul Parker

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Manchester
United's defeat to Aston Villa will
certainly have Alex Ferguson worried - it is always a concern when you lose at
home to a team that have not beaten you for 20 years.

I
was not altogether surprised, though. Villa are physical and direct, and pose a
different challenge from the teams you face in the Champions League.

Clearly
United's biggest problem lies at the
back, where Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic have struggled for form and
fitness.

When
you hear Sol Campbell mentioned as a possible signing, you know there is a
problem! Campbell has not played enough
football, and struggled last season at Portsmouth
so it was a relief to hear Ferguson
dismiss that one.

Nevertheless,
they do need to bring someone in who can help strengthen the back line in the
short term and put pressure on Vidic and Ferdinand in the longer run.

Competition
for places is what United thrive on - for example in 1999 they had David May
and Henning Berg pushing Jaap Stam and Ronny Johnsen. Even if they do not play,
back-ups can help the team by ensuring the first-choice players are at the top
of their game.

It
is always hard looking for players in January, but it would not bother me if
United signed a player who was ineligible for the Champions League. There is a
lot of domestic football to be played before the European action resumes and
the post-Christmas period is always a crucial time.

Plenty
of clubs have been linked with West Ham's
Matthew Upson, but Fergie may find he gets better value looking abroad. I'm sure he has a list of players in mind.

Further
forward, Wayne Rooney hasn't looked
himself for a while - even when scoring goals he has not been dominating games
as he often does.

There
has been a lot of onus on him to perform this season following the departures
of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, and the physical and mental fatigue may
have been increased by him becoming a father.

People
often ignore outside factors when talking about a player's
form, but they can have a real impact. The problem for Rooney is that United
cannot afford to rest him, even if he looks like he needs a week or two off.

Rooney
came in for some criticism for his dive against Aston Villa, and in a sense it
was a good thing the referee dealt with it there and then, showing him a yellow
card.

Plenty
of players try to win penalties, but by making public statements against
diving, Rooney and other players open themselves up to accusations of hypocrisy
when they do it themselves. Hopefully he won't
do it again.

-
- -

Ryan
Giggs fully deserved his Sports Personality award, and I actually think it is a
disgrace that it has taken so long for him to be properly recognised.

When
you look at the career he has had, the trophies he has won and the amount he
has contributed to British football, it's
an absolute joke that it has taken him this long to be honoured.

I
can only imagine it is because he is Welsh, and has not been subject of the
same kind of attention as England
players, but when you talk to proper football people they think it is an
embarrassment that he has not been considered for individual accolades until
now.

Ryan
does his talking on the pitch, not in the newspapers, and that may be why people
who have not had even a fraction of his achievements get all the attention.

Anyway, I am very happy that - however belatedly - the public have chosen to recognise
probably the greatest figure of the modern game.

It
was typical Giggsy to say he couldn't
fully enjoy the moment because he was thinking about the Aston Villa result.

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