Solving Manchester United’s Left Back Conundrum

As Manchester United continues to be embroiled in transfer sagas involving Brazilian starlet Lucas Moura and Arsenal’s Robin Van Persie, another position that hasn’t been addressed is who can provide cover for an aging Patrice Evra at left back.

Fabio, the 22-year-old twin brother of Manchester United’s right back Rafael, was sent on loan to Queens Park Rangers earlier this summer in order to gain more Premier League experience. The transfer will be crucial for the young Brazilian who has shown moments of promise in his brief tenure at Old Trafford.

Yet, the departure of Fabio has left an opening for a new defender to be brought in to back up Evra for the upcoming season.

It was a mixed season for Evra last season who began to show the effects of age slowing him down. While Evra was still great at linking up with players when moving forward, he made some disappointing defensive mistakes in letting opposing wingers get past him. His man-marking skills were non-existent at times as opponents were able to expose weaknesses in Manchester United’s defense on the left side of the pitch.

Evra is still expected to be the starter this season because the aging Frenchman is still better than many other left backs in the Premier League. Yet, Manchester United needs to provide cover for Evra so he doesn’t have to play in as many matches as he has over the last few years. An effective back up for Evra would allow United to save the dependable Frenchman for bigger matches.

In terms of transfer targets Manchester United has been linked with, Everton’s Leighton Baines has been repeatedly mentioned in the press. Baines would be a great addition for the squad because he’s one of the best left backs in the Premier League. The Englishman has stood out over the years for being a capable defender and an excellent offensive weapon in terms of crossing. He’s a dead-ball specialist and a proficient passer which would make him seamlessly fit into Manchester United’s attacking style where fullbacks are expected to cross well.

However, the likelihood of obtaining Baines appears bleak because Everton frankly don’t appear open to selling him. Despite numerous reports suggesting that United have made a recent £12 million bid for Baines, Howard Nurse of BBC Sport indicated last week that those rumors were false.

Overall, it seems like United have an interest in Baines but are not willing to pay the reported £17 million price tag Everton have placed on their beloved defender. Baines was coy about whether he wanted to leave Merseyside back in June as he only talked about his awareness of a possible transfer from the press.

However, considering Everton’s unrealistically high transfer demands and Baines’ lack of enthusiasm about coming to United, the Red Devils should move ahead and look at other options.

Neil Taylor, the Swansea left back who has performed well for the Great Britain team as a right back, has recently been linked with elite Premier League clubs like Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham in a Sky Sports report. A versatile full back, the Welsh defender was a key reason why Swansea’s defense performed so well last season as they finished eleventh in their inaugural Premier League campaign.

The 22-year-old carries plenty of pace and has been reportedly looked at by United as a long term option along with Fabio. As one of three Swansea players on Stuart Pearce’s Great Britain roster, Taylor has become a mainstay in the back as Great Britain have done well this summer until they bowed out against South Korea on penalty kicks.

The Welsh youngster’s quick adjustment to the rigors of the Premier League will make him subject to big money bids from teams like Manchester United. Swansea may not want to see their promising young fullback leave but perhaps they will prepare themselves to cashing in on Taylor’s potential.

Besides Taylor, another youngster United has become interested in according to Sky Sports is Costa Rican standout Bryan Oviedo who has done well for F.C. Copenhagen in the Danish Superliga. The 22-year-old already has thirteen caps for his national team and has become linked with several teams like United, Lille and ironically Everton as a long-term replacement for Baines.

Like Taylor, Oviedo would be used in numerous matches in the League Cup, FA Cup, and in the long Premier League season in order to settle in at Manchester United and keep Evra rested for more crucial matches. Currently valued at £2 million, Oviedo would be an inexpensive but important signing that will add to Manchester United’s depth.

Oviedo admitted that while he’s currently content with Copenhagen, being linked with United is a great honor that would make him reconsider his options.

He stated, “I was very proud the first time I saw my name in the English newspapers regarding interest from Manchester United and it made me even more motivated and determined to improve as a player. It is very important for my career that the big teams know who I am. At the moment I’m happy to stay in Copenhagen, where my home is, but I have to seriously consider my options if I get an interesting offer. I have to decide what is best for my family and me.”

12 thoughts on “Solving Manchester United’s Left Back Conundrum”

  1. I think if you look at how much Glen Johnson signed cost Liverpool, then £17m asking price isn’t to far wrong to be honest. Especially when Baines is so crucial to the way in which Everton play.

    I think the lad from Celtic, Izaguirre, could be a potential suitor. He’s looked excellent whenever i’ve seen him.

  2. Surprised that neither Romario or Jose Angel from Roma made this list. Jose Angel is class at LB and is also good at attacking from the wings. He’s on loan at Real Sociedad right now though.

  3. I haven’t found anything on reports linking Romario or Jose Angel to Utd.

    I agree that Baines could go for that price but that’s more of a product of hype by the English press than his actual ability. Plus, I feel Man Utd is a little bit more frugal with their funds than Liverpool is and wuld recognize that Johnson or Baines aren’t worth ridiculously high price tags.

    I’ve never really heard of Izaguirre so I’ll look into him. Thanks

  4. There is no way that 17 mil is an “unreasonable” fee for Baines, because: You must consider that Joleon Lescott left Everton for somewhere between 20 and 24 mil, Ashley Cole left Arsenal for Chelsea, Arsenal received roughly 5 mil AND a 29 year-old William Gallas, and that Glen Johnson is reported to have cost Liverpool roughly 17 mil. I would say that 17 is roughly the correct valuation.

  5. One thing about evra is he’s never injured. Worst case scenario we have smallng, jones and Evans who can play the full back postion, sure they might be less effective going forword from the LB postion but from a defensive stand point they can all provide cover if needed. We also have the young Irish kid who they are trying to convert from a winger to a left back. No need to panic this season but I can see this as Evras last as a automatic starter. I wouldn’t be surprised If we went after the Dutch left back from Ajax in the near future.

  6. Well paying Lescott 22 million is just ridiculous. There’s no way he’s worth that kind of money based on his overall form. I’m going to stay by my original stance that Baines is worth no more than 12 million and that Glen Johnson was grossly overpaid for.

    You’re right that Evra is durable however I feel that getting another solid left back would be better than sticking in Smalling who’s often hurt and is a much better centerback, Phil Jones is more of an RB and Johnny Evans isn’t fast enough to be a regular fullback. The Irish youngster, Robbie Brady, still needs more time to develop before United start playing him regularly. It definitely might be Evra’s last season as an automatic starter.

    1. The sensibility of the prices for Lescott and Johnson is irrelevant, the market has been set. Everton would be foolish to take less than 17m.

      1. You’re right as the market in England has set a player like Baines for 17 mil. However, just like how foolish it would be for Everton to perhaps sell him for less than 17, it would be just as foolish for United to buy him at that price.

  7. i also think we should look at players like Maynor Figueroa from Wigan. he is a master class and will be good with spot kicks as well.

  8. I think Evra is fine for a couple more years. You have to remember, Vidic was out last season, and Evra was trying to be everywhere at once. Especially in the backfield with the likes of Rafael and Johnny Evans whom I think are terrible. Now Vidic is back and Evra will have more freedom back there. Go United!

    1. I think Evra will probably last another couple of seasons too. I do think Vidic’s absence hurt the team but I don’t think that Evra was trying to play in every defensive position. I think Evans, besides the game against Everton where he got hurt and the first Manchester Derby where he got sent off, was solid last season with Ferdinand considering the number of injuries. Same goes for Rafael who struggled for the first half of last season but besides the Everton game, played well in the 2nd half of last season.

  9. Just because Liverpool overpaid for one player doesn’t mean United (or any other club) has to make the same mistake with another. 17 million for Glen Johnson was foolish.

    Evra is realistically the best option for United right now but I agree he is near the end of his time as an automatic in the first 11. Last season he had plenty of moments that hinted at a coming demise. The game that sticks out for me most was against Basel. Beyond any isolated incident throughout the whole game he looked overwhelmed.

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