Ferguson admits title defence at risk after Fulham defeat


Alex Ferguson has reacted to Manchester United’s 3 0 mauling by Fulham by admitting the champions are at risk of conceding the Premier League title race.

A savage injury list that has claimed seven defenders finally caught up with United as their makeshift three-man rearguard was overwhelmed at Craven Cottage.

The club had coped admirably with such severely depleted numbers until yesterday when Darren Fletcher, Michael Carrick and Ritchie de Laet were repeatedly exposed by an irresistible Fulham.

Worryingly it was their fifth defeat of the campaign, one more than they endured throughout last season when they claimed a third successive title.

Ferguson knows United’s defence of their title is teetering on the brink of collapse and will crumble altogether if the injury crisis fails to ease.

“The way the league is at the moment I hope this result is not too damaging. I hope it doesn’t cost us the league,” he said.

“We’ll have to get our defenders back to give us a proper chance of going for the league, there’s no question of that. But if we get them back we’ll be back in it.

“The quicker they’re back the better. They’re doing their best. The medical team and physios are working overtime to get them back.

“There’s no light at the end of the tunnel at the moment, that’s for sure.”

United were desperately short of inspiration — Paul Scholes was poor, Wayne Rooney quiet, Anderson and Antonio Valencia toothless and Michael Owen utterly anonymous.

Ferguson, however, refused to blame his players for the rout.

“There was a fragility at the back and we couldn’t do anything about that,” said Ferguson.

“You have to have sympathy for the players in that respect.

“It’s difficult to play midfielders at centre back and Ritchie de Laet is only 21 years of age. He’s not got the experience yet needed for these type of matches.

“We couldn’t get behind Fulham at all and their defence is very well organised and it was a difficult day for us.

“The players are maybe feeling a bit sorry for themselves at the moment because of the situation they’re in.

“But the quality of the football wasn’t as good as it normally is.

“The fragile nature of the players at the back, with midfielders playing in defence, has left them feeling sorry for themselves a bit.”