Taking care of business

Posted by Mark Payne

Alex FergusonPA PhotosSir Alex Ferguson has had to apapt to defensive issues this season

Charles Darwin's book The Origin of the Species is often wrongly summed up with the quote, "survival of the fittest". Darwin's argument was not necessarily that the strongest, or even the most intelligent, were most likely to prevail, but the most adaptable. As we enter the fourth age, and 26th year, of Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United, there can be no argument over who is the most adaptable. And it isn't Arsene Wenger.

Last year an Old Trafford stand was renamed in the manager's honour; this month a statue will be unveiled in his image outside the stadium. These tremendous tributes probably mean as much to the Scot as three points against Braga.

Last year's campaign was summed up by insufficient goal difference in the league, and an atrocious effort in continental competition. After giving Arsenal a numerical reprieve at the weekend, Fergie will be looking to his team to ensure progress in the Champions League. Last year's ghosts have not been exorcised yet.

United fans will be hoping that their defenders have started to introduce themselves to each other. They will also be delighted to see concentration for a full match. Conceding a goal with the final kick of the game, as United did on Saturday, is not a luxury they will be able to afford away in Europe. If United can focus on these areas, then business will be in order.

This has been a strange and tempestuous season so far. Chelsea play nice football, Real Madrid are having a nightmare, and the League Cup has produced the finest matches of this year's calendar. Despite these unexpected circumstances, United are still expected to meet the challenges before them.

De Gea was in goal behind a defence of Evans, Buttner, Rafael and Carrick as United sneaked past Braga at Old Trafford. With the struggling Aston Villa up next in the league, one might presume that the midweek fixture will take priority this week. Chris Smalling is set to return from injury and, if fit, it would be nice for United to start with two centre-backs for a change.

Whoever gets the nod, United are in the thick of playing two big games a week and have to be flexible enough to cope. Sir Alex Ferguson is the manager to guide this young squad through away trips in Europe but the players looked drained on Saturday and could struggle in Portugal. There are fresh new faces in the side, but the objective remains the same. Glory for Manchester United.

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