Liverpool hero: These three are Manchester United's weak link

Chris Smalling Scores Against Chelsea

Phil Thompson says he cannot see Manchester United lifting the title unless their defence improves.

Former Liverpool favourite Phil Thompson says that Manchester United's defence will hold them back.

Adding to concerns over the club's midfield, United allowed Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic to leave on free transfers this summer, and bizarrely have not replaced either, with the season just days away.

Thompson believes the young defenders Ferdinand publicly backed to step up, have it all to prove, and are vulnerable.

He told SkySports: "I see massive improvement in Manchester United but at this moment, because they haven’t strengthened defensively, I couldn’t yet say that they’ll gate-crash the top four.

"It’ll be easier without European competition, you saw Liverpool last season, but defensively Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling showed their susceptibility last season."

Jones and Smalling appeared to take a step back last season, while Evans struggled with injury in the latter half of the campaign.

England international Jones in particular discovered a frustrating penchant for conceding penalties, which he did once again in the recent 3-1 friendly win over Liverpool.

Louis van Gaal will hope that playing three at the back will help the trio tighten and perform better, as his Dutch side did at the World Cup.

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It does however expose the lack of depth United possess in the position, a point especially worth considering as all three have struggled with injuries at various points over the last two seasons.

Should United fail to bring in another centre-back or two, it could really become a position of concern, and United would have to face the reality of Michael Carrick moving back to fill in a gap as he has done in the past, an inexcusable circumstance considering CEO Ed Woodward's boast about the club's spending power.

Can Jones, Smalling and Evans prove their doubters wrong?

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