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Defenders top of United agenda

ESPN staff
July 30, 2014
Van Gaal makes it three out of three

Louis van Gaal has underlined Manchester United's need to sign defenders this summer after the departures of Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra.

The new manager has been encouraged by the potential of some of the young players at Old Trafford and the team's performances on their pre-season tour to the US but has been heavily linked with moves for Arsenal's Thomas Vermaelen and Borussia Dortmund's Mats Hummels.

United kept their second clean sheet of the trip on Tuesday night as they beat Inter Milan 5-3 in a penalty shootout in Washington DC. "We are doing well but we are looking for defenders, because a lot of defenders have gone," Van Gaal said. "We have to replace them but I like also like Michael Keane and Tyler Blackett.

"The first match [against LA Galaxy] was zero goals, the second match was a fantastic goal by [Roma's Miralem] Pjanic, an error from the goalkeeper and a penalty given by the referee, and today again zero goals."

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Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney spent 10 years together at Manchester United © Getty Images
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Ashley Young has been one of those tried out in a more defensive role in the absence of more new signings, playing wingback in Van Gaal's new 3-5-2 system and scoring United's first penalty in the shootout against Inter.

"It's been good to play in the different positions," Young, reportedly fighting for his United future, told the club's official website. "I started on the left [against Inter] and ended up on the right. I can play in both wingback positions and if the manager calls on me to do something I've got every confidence in myself to go out there and play well.

"We're delighted to get another win [against Inter]. Stepping up for that first penalty was a good challenge and I was always confident I was going to score. I've been practising them and I knew exactly where I was going to put it."

Second-half substitute Luke Shaw drew praise from Van Gaal after getting a surprise runout despite a heavy training programme which has seen him trying to improve his fitness on his own.

The £27 million signing from Southampton admits he underestimated the demands United would make of him, but the manager provided some encouragement.

"Luke is working very hard and he was lucky because normally I would have played our friend Reece James, but he was a little bit injured," Van Gaal said. "I asked him in spite of a very heavy training session this morning and I think he did very well."

The Dutchman was in upbeat mood after United's third pre-season game and, even though he believes it will take three months of struggle before the team are completely comfortable with his approach, he rated the Inter Milan game the best of his short tenure.

"I am very pleased," said Van Gaal, who made eight changes at the break. "We played by far the best match of our sequence of three. They only had one shot on our goal and that was given by the referee [a free-kick], but I think we also created six or seven chances, so then it is seven against one.

"I was very pleased with our ball possession; it was much better than the other matches. And I think also the positions were better covered.

"So I was tonight very pleased with the performance of my players, both in the first half and the second half."

Former Manchester United defender Nemanja Vidic faced old team-mate Danny Welbeck © Getty Images
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