• Manchester United v Cluj, Champions League

Ferguson concerned by United defence

ESPN staff
December 5, 2012

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has one eye on Sunday's derby clash against champions Manchester City as he prepares for the meeting with CFR Cluj at Old Trafford.

With United already assured of progression from the group stages, it is preserving and perhaps extending their three-point lead in the Premier League that is of greater importance to the manager.

And those hopes are likely to rest on a much-improved defensive showing after their 4-3 win at Reading. United have now conceded 32 goals this season, something Ferguson knows they must improve on.

"It is a worry,'' Ferguson admitted. "If we perform like that on Sunday then God knows what's going to happen to us. We've lost 32 goals already - I can't remember us losing so many goals before Christmas.

"Saturday was like Cartoon Cavalcade and when you see City have Balotelli, Dzeko - really tall players - it's going to be a big challenge. It's a concern. But that's on Sunday. It's five days away but at this moment in time it feels like five months.''

It had been suggested that Nemanja Vidic could be ready to play either on Wednesday or by Sunday, but Ferguson has suggested the Serbian centre-back will miss both matches.

"I don't think Nemanja will play,'' Ferguson added. "He feels he needs another few days' training so he won't be available. He's not far away. He's training well now but I think another few days will bring him on better.

"But if he doesn't play against Cluj there's no chance he'll play in the derby game, although I wasn't considering Nemanja for Sunday anyway.''

Manchester United player to watch: With Vidic unlikely to be risked if he is not fully recovered after undergoing knee surgery in September, Sir Alex Ferguson will turn to Jonny Evans to partner Chris Smalling in defence. Evans' marking left a lot to be desired during United's 4-3 win at Reading last weekend and he was at fault for two of the Royals' goals - both on set pieces. Fergie had expressed his concern at his side's errant defending - Evans can expect the hairdryer treatment if he slips up again.

Cluj player to watch: Cluj goalkeeper Mario Felgueiras may have failed to match the achievements of former Sporting Lisbon team-mate Nani, but the Portuguese will be keen to prove himself on the big stage at Old Trafford. He will have his work cut out against Wayne Rooney, who looks to be returning to form.

Betting: United teenager Nick Powell impressed when making his debut in the competition during United's defeat to Galatasaray last month, hitting the bar with a powerful header. Back the 18-year-old to score the first goal at odds of 15/2 with bet365.

Prediction: 2-1

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.