Manchester United suffered another defeat on Sunday against their bitter rivals Manchester City. The reigning champions managed to battle their way through to a 1-0 victory against the ten men of United, after Chris Smalling saw red late in the first half.
But this game has just reiterated the fact that the United squad needs strengthening in a couple of positions. The Red Devils' defensive frailties have been highlighted several times this season and it is an obvious area for improvement.
Louis van Gaal failed to recruit someone of huge stature in a defensive position in the summer transfer window and it has proved to be a costly error; United have conceded fourteen goals already this season and frequent injuries to the centre-back position haven't helped.
The back four is far too young and inexperienced. United's oldest first team defender is new signing Marcos Rojo, the 24-year-old from Sporting Lisbon. Every time the opposition is on the attack, United look vulnerable and nervous.
Whether Van Gaal believes his side can compete for the title with a defense of that quality in the Premier League is unknown, but surely United's performances have got him thinking of possible signings come January.
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United desperately need to invest in a centre-back in the January transfer window, and someone like Mats Hummels would be a brilliant signing. Even though he is still relatively young, he is a world-class defender and is progressing all the time.
The German defender is a huge player for club and country, easily getting straight into the first team for both Borussia Dortmund and World Cup winners Germany, so the man is obviously top class. He would improve the United defence dramatically with his leadership skills, which is what they so desperately need.
Another area for improvement is the centre midfield role. Although Van Gaal recruited Ander Herrera and Daley Blind in the summer, United are still struggling to win that midfield battle in the majority of games.
Again what United need is a world class player to fit into the midfield three United often play. They were trying to hunt down Arturo Vidal throughout the summer, but Juventus were reluctant to let the Chilean go.
If they could persuade the Serie A champions to sell him in January with a huge bid, United's midfield would arguably be the best in the league. However, if Vidal is out of the equation when it comes to the transfer window, Kevin Strootman could serve as an alternative.
The Dutch centre midfielder has been on the sidelines for the past few months with an anterior cruciate ligament injury, which ruled him out of the World Cup. But Van Gaal has already hinted at the idea of signing the Dutchman from Roma when he recovers from the injury.
Strootman obviously has a connection with Van Gaal from his time as the Holland manager, so this could tempt the Dutchman to Old Trafford if Roma are willing to let him go.
Lack of European football
There is one problem United are facing however; will players of this calibre want to join a side that may not be in the Champions League next season? The signings of Di Maria and Radamel Falcao would give the United fans hope that their club will still be able to attract world class talent.
The way things are looking for United at the moment however, no Champions League football for next season is looking more and more of a possibility.
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