SINGAPORE - Denis Irwin knows a thing or two about defending. After all, he was an ever-present in a Manchester United backline who won seven Premier League titles during his 12 years at Old Trafford.
The 53-year-old Irishman believes if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Red Devils are to have any chance of a top-four finish next season, they must tighten up things at the back.
United's leaky defence was a key reason for them finishing sixth in the league last season.
They conceded 54 goals - the second-worst defensive record among the top 10 teams.
Speaking at an event organised by club sponsor Maybank at Suntec City which attracted 1,500 fans, the club ambassador said: "They need to improve defensively this year if they are going to make the top four.
"In previous seasons, we have always been very tight defensively, but we let in too many goals last year. We need to be tighter at the back and I'm sure we'll do that this year.
"When the attackers score goals, they will tell you that sometimes defenders provide crosses or provide assist for them, you attack as a team and defend as a team."
Central midfielder Nemanja Matic echoed Irwin's sentiments, and is buoyed by what he saw in pre-season training.
Speaking at a meet-and-greet event organised by United's global sponsor Chivas Regal at Clifford Pier, the Serb told The Straits Times: "When we speak about defence, it's not only about the defensive line, it's all things, so we are working on it to improve.
"As you've seen in the last three games, we didn't concede any goals. So we're in a good way defensive-wise and, hopefully, we'll continue like this."
United started their pre-season in fine form as they beat Perth Glory 2-0, outclassed Leeds United 4-0 and eked out a 1-0 win over Italian Serie A side Inter Milan in the International Champions Cup at the National Stadium on Saturday.
New signing Aaron Wan-Bissaka is one of those whose work-rate and performances have caught the eye of midfielder Jesse Lingard.
Lingard said of the 21-year-old full-back: "He has fit in perfectly. We've seen him perform over the last three games, he's been excellent. It's about keeping that consistency now."
Eric Bailly's time at Old Trafford has been punctuated with injuries, but the 25-year-old centre-back is eager to make up for lost time.
The Ivory Coast international said: "It is very important to be fit.
"This year has been hard with the injuries, but now I'm coming back in full shape and I'm really hoping for the best this year."