The former Red Devils captain says further transfer spending is not the answer to the team’s defensive vulnerabilities
Rio Ferdinand says spending more money is not the way to solve Manchester United’s defensive problems and they should instead focus on the “finer details”, citing his experience playing alongside former Red Devils goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side led twice against Leicester on Saturday but only came away with a point at the King Power Stadium when Jamie Vardy’s late strike deflected in off Axel Tuanzebe.
It is the first time United have dropped points on the road this season, having come from behind to win their previous six away league matches.
Though the spirit and character shown to fight back from a goal down is admirable, Ferdinand believes United’s failure to keep regular clean sheets will cost them in the long run.
Solskjaer’s side have the worst defensive record in the top half of the Premier League, having conceded 23 goals in their opening 14 matches.
Some have suggested that the Norwegian should enter the transfer market in January in an attempt to bolster his defence. Ferdinand, though, believes the current set of players can solve the team’s defensive deficiencies themselves.
“Sometimes you can’t just keep churning out chequebook after chequebook, buying player after player, sometimes it’s down to the coaching and analysing things and looking at the finer details,” he said on his Five Youtube channel.
“I’m not saying the coaching staff aren’t doing that at Man United, because I know they are, but sometimes there are little nuances, little things you might think about or forget or you don’t think about at the time. “
Ferdinand says he and former team-mate van der Sar addressed similar issues during their time at Old Trafford.
The former England international played alongside the Dutchman throughout his six years as a United player, during which time the club won 10 major honours including four Premier League titles and the 2008 Champions League.
“Edwin van der Sar text me during the [Leicester] game, when the goal went in and McTominay didn’t go out to close him [Harvey Barnes] down and Bailly was behind him,” added Ferdinand.
“And it took me back to when we used to play and I would always say to Edwin, ‘When you see me going out to someone one-v-one, or on the edge of the box, I will try and stand in a certain place and wherever I stand, you stand opposite to it, you react off where I stand’.
“So if I was going out to say, Fernando Torres, on the edge of the box, I know he’s right-footed, I’m going to make sure that he can’t hit it back between my legs. So he can down the right-hand side, keep pushing down the right-hand side, and get a shot off, but I’m going to allow you to shoot near post, that’s fine, but not back through my legs, I’m going to block that.
“And I’d say to Edwin, ‘If it goes through my legs hopefully you save it, but if you don’t it’s down to me. I take full responsibility’. And that’s the conversations we were having.
“And that’s what players need to do. You need to create relationships, talk off the pitch before you go on, if this situation happens this is what I’m going to do, react off it this way. So no stone is left unturned. It’s in the detail. You win three points with detail sometimes.
“You go home with one point, or no points, because you didn’t concentrate or find out about the finer details and make sure you both were on the same page. It’s about working in twos, pairs, in threes, quartets sometimes, working together in little units on the pitch and getting a good understanding of each other.”
Ferdinand also says the responsibility for working on the minor details should not necessarily fall on the manager. Instead, it is up to the players to go that extra mile, which can often be the difference between success and failure.
“All these players nowadays, you can tell by the way they play, been to the training ground, seen it, they’re all well-drilled as teams, all got a gameplan, all work towards what the manager wants – that’s fine, that’s great. But sometimes you need a bit more than that,” he said.
“There is a fine detail in the games that are going to get you over the line and you just need to be really diligent in doing that as a team. Sometimes it’s not down to the manager, and not down to the coaches, it’s down to you as a player to start asking questions and start pulling people to one side and saying, ‘We’re going to do this because it’s going to make it easier for you, and I’m going to stand here and you react off me’.
“Take ownership, take leadership of situations, simple as that.”