The Frailest Four: The most common reasons a consistent back four cannot be established is that since 2008-09, United have constantly been dealing with injuries to its defense. While I have very little to go on other than what I have seen and what I can see, but I lay most of the blame for this crisis that doesn’t seem to have an end at the feet of United’s Nutrition Program. Compare a full body picture of any United defender from the title winning 2006-07 season to one from this current season and you will see what I am talking about. Each member of the United defense is visibly smaller, meaning less muscle mass. Richard Hawkins, United’s “Head of Human Performance” has been with the team since 2008-09. Since then, every player on the team has gotten noticeably slimmer, with disappearing muscle mass. This is clearly a result of his goal, “…to create and maintain a physical framework for all United players from the first team to the under-9s.” Maybe you’ll scream me off of the website for this one, but a center-half should not look like a winger, but at United, they are built the same way. Perhaps this is why they’ve had a terrible record over the past three seasons of conceding from set pieces and certainly De Gea is perhaps the biggest victim of this. In comments to other articles on his performance, those optimistic of an improvement like myself cite his need to “grow stronger” or “fill out” – I contend that is simply impossible given where United have gone with their Nutrition/Fitness Programs. Maybe I am way off, but it seems as though thinner, quicker players are far more exposed to lower body injuries than those who are built with the goal of optimal balance of speed and strength.
Sir Alex and the Twilight of Two Center Halves: The combination of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic at the center of the United defense has been one for the history books, and while they basically remain United’s best tandem there, natural circumstances such as their rising age and all that comes with it start digging away at the most important aspect of a solid defense, consistency. Ferdinand’s contract is expiring at the end of the season, Vidic’s current contract ends the next season. The last great pairing was Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister, Bruce left the club at the age of 35, Pallister at 32-the same ages Ferdinand and Vidic would be should Sir Alex Ferguson offers Ferdinand a one year deal. Pallister played just to more seasons (55 more games) for Middlesbrough before hanging up his boots, whilst Bruce managed to play three more seasons (82 more games) for Birmingham City and Sheffield United.