LONDON: Manchester United may believe that the start of the season came too early. They looked ill-prepared for the energetic challenge of Everton last Monday and are still sorting themselves out both on and off the pitch.

Off it United continue to monitor closely the progress of their shares sales in New York. This is expected to raise around £75m which the club will use not for transfer spending but to trim the massive debt which threatens problems vis-à-vis UEFA’s financial fair play regulations.

The international speculator George Soros is among investors – spending £3.1m on what is, effectively, 1.9pc of the entire club – but fans would rather see more of the financial focus on the team, notwithstanding the arrivals of Robin Van Persie and Shinji Kagawa.

Manager Sir Alex Ferguson blamed the 1-0 defeat at Everton on the inability of an injury-weakened defence to cope with the aerial power of Marouane Fellaini.

So thin were United’s resources – in the absence of Rio Ferdinand, Phil Jones, Rafael da Silva, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans – that he needed emergency recourse to a right-winger (Antonio Valencia) at right back and a midfielder (Michael Carrick) in central defence.

Ferguson may be forced into the same arrangement against Fulham on Saturday.

Patrice Evra did play at Goodison but, at 31, the task of finding a long-term replacement at left-back is pressing. Alexander Buttner, who signed a five-year contract on Tuesday, does not appear to be up to the task. The 23-year-old thought he might leave Vitesse Arnhem for the Premier League but imagined it would be to Southampton.

He said: “If anyone had told me that, suddenly, I would be playing for Manchester United with Robin Van Persie, I would have driven you straight to the madhouse.

Looking to the future, England striker Danny Welbeck has signed a four-year contract extension and United are pursuing Pachuca midfielder Hector Herrera, one of Mexico’s Olympic gold medal-winning heroes. His arrival could mean the departure of Nani. The erratic Portugal winger Nani looked distracted on Monday amid reports that United will not be offering him a contract extension.


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