Manchester United vs. Newcastle: United's Defense Will Be Downfall in Title Race

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistDecember 26, 2012

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 04: Rio Ferdinand of Manchester United walks out for a training session ahead of their UEFA Champions League group stage match against CFR 1907 Cluj at Carrington Training Ground on December 4, 2012 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Manchester United might have gone seven points clear atop the Premier League table on Wednesday, but their defense will cost them the title.

The Red Devils are officially halfway through the season. With Manchester City losing to Sunderland and United defeating Newcastle United, the red half of Manchester has a commanding lead.

The season is far from over, but many will see it almost impossible that a Sir Alex Ferguson-coached team could lose the title.

However, the United back four could very well be the demise of the club's Premier League hopes.

The Newcastle match was just more of the same for the club so far. Last year, the Red Devils only conceded 33 goals all season. They've given 28 in 2012/13, and that's only through 19 matches.

Strikers Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse have failed to click together this year for the Magpies. As a result, Newcastle had only scored 20 goals in 18 Premier League matches.

The club went to Old Trafford and netted three times.

Rio Ferdinand could be blamed a bit for the first as he played James Perch onside. Then it was Jonny Evans who gave Newcastle its second goal. For the third, it was just a simple throw-in, followed by a ball delivered into the box by Gabriel Obertan.

Shola Ameobi almost found a winner deep into the match.

United's defense looked shaky all game. Their attack was as good as the back four was bad, however, thus United walked away with a 4-3 victory.

Regardless, a team challenging for the title can't have the kind of defensive issues the Red Devils have.

Whether it be through aging or injury, the United defense has been declining over the past few months and maybe even years.

Centre-back Nemanja Vidic is returning, but there are more cracks to fill.

Left-back Patrice Evra has been probably the biggest headache. He's great getting forward. More often than not, though, Evra's been struggling in the defensive end. At 31 years old he can let attackers get in behind him because he doesn't have the athleticism to track back.

Ferdinand has also been a trouble spot. He's clearly reaching the twilight of his career.

At this stage, Vidic can't be relied upon in every match. Vidic's return will without a doubt cover up some of Ferdinand's struggles, but a partnership of Ferdinand and Evans should ring some alarm bells for United supporters.

For those who say that the title is already won, and City or another club have no shot at catching United, don't forget the end of the 2011/12 season.

The 4-4 draw with Everton in April cost United the title. The two more points it could have earned from a win would have put them ahead on City on the final day.

There was also the 3-2 loss to Blackburn at the end of December. Rovers were of course relegated.

The Red Devils have quite a few options in the attack, having scored the most goals in the league. Sometime, though, their defense is going to have to step up.