Manchester United has had a torrid start to the new season especially defensively, as the Red Devils have conceded 12 goals in the first four games of the Premier League. That also included a humiliating 6 – 1 drubbing at the hands of Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspurs. Fingers have been pointed at many places including Ed Woodward and The Glazers who failed to sign a center-back given the problems that we were facing.
This isn’t just a new problem. It stretches it out to last season as well where we conceded goals due to mistakes from everybody in the backline – including even the once-reliable David de Gea. The full-back pairing however in our team is extremely strong defensively and is one less issue to worry about.
Today we take a look at four ways in which we could fix our defensive issues.
1. BUY A NEW CENTER BACK
This is probably the most obvious one. We need a new center-back who is pacy, good on the ball, and aerially. Many candidates come to mind. The two that I want to talk about specifically are Pau Torres and Dayot Upamecano.
Pau Torres, the Villareal center back had a breakthrough season last year which also got him included in the Spanish national team. He is pacy and extremely good on the ball and is left-footed – thus can play on the left side of the defense. He is probably the ideal partner for Harry Maguire as he compliments him well.
Pau Torres last season was unbelievable and given his age, he can only grow from here.
Dayot Upamecano is the player I would sign however if given a choice. The RB Leipzig center back was crucial in their successful campaign where they reached the Champions League semi-finals under Julien Nagglesman. He is strong, agile, fast, and doesn’t shy away from a tackle. Partnered with Lindelof he could turn United’s defensive form around.
These numbers just confirm what a good signing Upamecano would be.
2. A NEW CENTER BACK PAIRING
It has been shown on multiple occasions that Maguire and Lindelof don’t work that well. Lack of pace is a big issue as neither of them has enough to catch pacey forwards like Aubameyang and Vardy while also maintaining a high line.
Maguire and Lindelof were the main center back pairing used last season.
The best center-back pairing we can put out at the moment would be either Axel Tuanzebe and Maguire or Tuanzebe and Lindelöf. Tuanzebe and Lindelöf can be used against smaller teams who don’t really threaten aerially that much and who attempt to defend in a low block. Lindelof can play the Libero role better than anyone else in the squad as he showed against Chelsea in the 0 – 0 draw.
Maguire and Lindelof can also work if utilized properly i.e. we don’t play that high a line at least against teams that threaten on the counter-attack. I think Solskjaer has realized that now as we didn’t do that much against RB Leipzig
3. A NEW MIDFIELD PAIRING
It’s fair to say that Pogba and Bruno don’t work well together because they both want to play in the free role. The only way they play well together is a diamond where a Matic/McTominay and Fred try to sit back while they both play expansively. If we do stick with a 4 – 2 – 3 – 1, we need to do away with Pogba in the defensive midfield position coz he just doesn’t track back that much. Also, Fred needs to be playing instead of Matic because he does the running and is generally more energetic.
4. A CHANGE IN FORMATION
Here is where I think Ole’s is a bit wrong. 4 – 2 – 3 – 1 is not United’s best formation. The 4 – 4 – 2 diamond is. It provides excellent defensive cover as Matic can just back while we are attacking and that showed against RB Leipzig when we beat them convincingly. Also, he was dictating to Maguire and Lindelof when and where to play the ball so it gives us a leader at the back that we have been lacking (I’m still not convinced that Maguire is captain material).
The other formation that we can use to good effect is 3 – 4 – 1 – 2 which can be used specifically against big sides (the best example is Paris). Here Luke Shaw and Tuanzebe should act as pacy LCB and RCB while Maguire or Lindelof play as Liberos.
Varun (@VarunSangwan01) is a writer at large, and one of the global contributors to the Daily Manc team. He is also the creator and chief editor of The United Devils.
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