Composure Will Be Key To Fixing Manchester United’s Defensive Problems


Manchester United’s 5-3 defeat to Leicester City on Sunday was the latest setback in what has been a twelve month long period of difficulty for the twenty time English champions. The appointment and subsequent dismissal of David Moyes after just 10 months was the start of a steady decline with experienced Dutchman Louis van Gaal brought in to return the club to its former glory.

Despite a lot of conjecture regarding the club’s activity in the transfer market, mainly the failure to buy a recognised, experienced centre-half to replace the outgoing pair of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, it was probably the best transfer window the club has enjoyed since the turn of the millennium.

Stars such as Angel di Maria and Radamel Falcao have joined a club not in the Champions League, but there has also been a complete reshuffle of the much maligned midfield through the welcome additions of Ander Herrera and Daley Blind.

There are still obvious issues at United, as were highlighted on Sunday, but for supporters the situation, I believe is far more positive than it was following the defeats throughout the 2013-14 campaign.

After defeats last season you could pick one of up to five problems with the squad that needed addressing with significant financial expenditure. The only real area of the team supporters could rely upon last year was the goalkeeper, David de Gea.

This season, if you take the closure of the transfer window as a starting point for this new look United side there is just one glaring problem that in theory is easily rectified, the lack of a commanding centre-half to lead the defence.

Make no mistake, Tyler Blackett has impressed thus far and was left absolutely on his own in the final stages against Leicester, leading to his sending off. The young left-back turned central defender has looked arguably the most assured of United’s backline despite making his Premier League debut against Swansea in August.

Marcos Rojo has been playing at left-back whilst Luke Shaw has had to bide his time on the bench during his pursuit of full fitness. It is likely that for next weekend’s clash with West Ham at Old Trafford, Shaw will come in at left-back whilst we will see a Smalling and Rojo partnership in the middle.

My understanding is that van Gaal was very keen on Mats Hummels last summer, even until the last week of the window when it had been made abundantly clear just less than a month earlier that the German international would not be leaving Dortmund.

Dortmund were never shall we say open to a sale, but certainly I am led to believe before the World Cup the club would have considered a very strong offer. As it happened this offer never came, until around the 20th July when United were rumoured to have made a £16million offer, which when you consider the qualities of Hummels is the perfect definition of derisory in the muddled world of transfer specific dialect in which we currently reside.

On the other hand, with it so easy to point out the one glaring problem with United’s squad at the moment you could argue the failure to bring a centre-half in during the summer is even more alarming. However, with the work done in the forward areas of the pitch, there is a clear sign of progression at Old Trafford.

United supporters haven’t seen a player quite like di Maria since Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure in 2009. He has electric pace and always seems to make something happen when he has the ball. If there is a settled, confident defensive line behind players like di Maria and Falcao, the top four finish would be very likely.

Van Gaal has to put up with his current defensive options between now and at least January, but with suspensions and injuries racking up the return of Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini could at least give van Gaal options in defense.

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  1. Marc September 23, 2014
    • Chris Winterburn (Author) September 23, 2014
    • scrumper September 23, 2014
    • Frill Artist September 24, 2014

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