After United finished 6th the season before, it was clear that reinforcements were needed in several key areas. Summer transfer window saw many outs clearing up the wage bill too making way for new incomings. 3 months in, several problems seem to be crying out to be fixed but one area of significant fortification and improvement has been the defense.
The Clear Out
Sir Alex had the innate capability to draw extraordinary performances from pretty ordinary players. This is of course apart from having talented defenders like Rio and Vidic to marshall the troops. Since his departure, several managers have tried to make do with existing players who have constantly been tagged as not good enough or brought in several new ones who struggled to make their mark. Ole certainly deserves praise for clearing out the cobwebs. This can help achieve dual objectives over the course of the future
- Give the likes of youth in Tuanzebe, Williams a chance to make it into the first team
- Provide the team with a settled back 4. A consistent defence always forms the base of a good team.
Antonio Valencia expectantly retired, Smalling was loaned out to Roma and Darmian sold off.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka earned himself a lot of praise in his debut season leading most defensive stats following a superb campaign in England’s top flight.He had the most clearances, most tackles won, most take-ons completed, most interceptions and the highest tackle success rate at the tender age of 20. It was only imperative that United signed him up for 55,00 mil. €
Harry Maguire seemed to on the radar for a while with his name constantly being linked to United before he was finally signed on as the most expensive defender for 87,00 mil. €. The fee illustrates how badly the team needed a leader and a big name at the back than the actual worth of the player in my opinion. He fit the profile of the crop of players that were being eyed by Ole and certainly strengthens United at the back.
From the youth side of things, it will be a huge opportunity for Axel Tuanzebe, Timothy Fosu Mensah and Brandon Williams to try to make their way into the first team and prove themselves.
With a disappointing injury to Eric Bailly in preseason that ruled him out upto the end of the year, the preferred ball playing centre back pairing has been Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire.The pair did take a few games to settle in but seem to have provided a massive upgrade to the back four and long overdue protection to David de Gea who’s had more than he should have to deal with at the back. Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo serve as stand ins as many arguably think is their deservant role.
Axel Tuanzebe however has been a revelation and has put forth clinical performances in the limited opportunities he has had and is a capable differential to Lindelof or Maguire as and when the situation demands.
The full backs department looks comparatively weaker with Luke Shaw continuing to be sidelined by injuries. His void having to be filled by Young mostly otherwise Rojo isn’t making many happy and arguably so. Diogo Dalot on the other wing has failed to make the most in the rare absence of Wan-Bissaka through a few minor niggles who would otherwise undoubtedly serve as the first choice right back.
A key youth prospect in Brandon Williams awaits the chance to make his name. He certainly has the potential as was displayed in the game against Alkmaar. Timothy Fosu Mensah remains the forgotten auxiliary man in defence recovering from his surgery in the summer. How strongly he comes back from it will determine if he finds a place in the new look defence. Same goes with the ailing Eric Bailly.
– Third least goals conceded in the league by United which is a big positive.
Potential into Performances
A solid back four of Shaw Lindelof Maguire Wan-Bissaka backed up by de Gea is nothing short of a title winning defence when looked in isolation. Another left back possibly in the summer would be a luxury. The key would be to stay fit and put in consistent performances.
-United have only 2 clean sheets in the league. The very few chances created by the opposition have been unfortunately translated into goals.
-Not many goals scored from set pieces and crosses despite the height at the back.
It is certain that with a better midfield and a better attack, more goals would ease the pressure off the defence. However, recent contract renewals by de Gea, Lindelof, Jones, Young, Shaw apart from the signings of Maguire and AWB stand as a testament to the rebuilding process. Manchester United might have a million problems right now but thankfully the defence certainly ain’t one.