Alan Hansen believes Manchester United's biggest problems this season have been in defence and not in their perceived Achilles heel the midfield area, claiming the loss of Nemanja Vidic is the biggest blow to their title aspirations.
The aforementioned Match of the Day pundit believes Manchester United's recent successes have been founded on the likes of Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Edwin Van der Sar, who retired last season, and their perpetually changing back line has undermined the club's usually watertight defence.
Hansen, who was a mainstay of Liverpool's back-line during one of the most successful periods in their remarkable history, claims Manchester United have struggled during their current transitional period as they try to bed-in the likes of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and in particular David De Gea.
Citing the likes of Peter Schmeichel and the recently retired Van der Sar, Hansen suggests Manchester United used to have a goalkeeper that could win you games on their own. De Gea, according to Hansen, is yet to reach those levels for Ferguson's side and that is why there have been times this season they have failed to triumph in "tight circumstances".
Hansen also intimates the loss of Nemanja Vidic for the duration of the season could have a major bearing on Manchester United's efforts to successfully defend their Premier League title this season, even though he acknowledges the undoubted potential of Jones and Smalling.
"Smalling and Jones have tremendous potential, but they're still learning and prone to errors." Hansen told the Daily Telegraph, when assessing Manchester United's problems this season.
"(Manchester United number one) David de Gea hasn't been terrible since replacing Van der Sar, but he's not been great, either.
"What Manchester United had with the Dutch keeper, and Peter Schmeichel before that, was a No 1 who won you games. When the pressure was on, they would produce a save which determined the result. De Gea is not at that stage of his career at Old Trafford yet, which is why in tight circumstances Manchester United are not grinding out the results as much as they were."
Manchester United won the title by nine points last season yet at times they looked distinctly underwhelming and Hansen believes their victory is a testament to the likes of Nemanja Vidic. The Serbian was so good last year, the aforementioned Scot believes it was a "travesty" he didn't win the Player of the Year.
Tottenham Hotspur's Gareth Bale and West Ham United's Scott Parker were last season's recipients of the PFA and the Football Writers' respective individual awards, yet Hansen believes Manchester United's 19th title was founded on the brilliance of Vidic.
"Last season, there were certain games after Christmas when Manchester United were as bad as I could have imagined, and yet they still won the league." Hansen continued.
"More than any title win, that was based on defensive soundness. It was a travesty (Manchester United captain) Vidic wasn't named Player of the Year last season."
Hansen concluded: "It is his injury which will hurt most for the rest of this campaign."