Jose Mourinho Sees Defensive Frailties Again As Manchester United Win In Sweden

Posted: July 31, 2016 in European Football, Football, Manchester United, Opinion, Premier League
Tags: , , , , , ,

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The result may have been a resounding 5-2 victory for United but Jose Mourinho should be more concerned about the two than he should be happy about the five.

Both the Galatasaray goals came in the first half when the two central defenders were Eric Bailly and Daley Blind. Both goals were very preventable, one coming from a set piece which resulted in a free header from five yards out while the second was well worked although the defensive tackles were conspicuous by their absence, allowing Bruma a free shot from the edge of the area.

However, in fairness to the first half defensive partnership, the fact that United did not concede in the second half, with a different pairing, was more down to their consistent attacks and greater possession than to any good defensive work.

After half time Blind and Bailly were replaced by Jones and Rojo who did what little they had to do reasonably well.

The problem United have is that they have too many “defenders” who can’t defend. Right wingback was Antonio Valencia. He was excellent going forward and ended the game with three assists. On the flip side, he was a complete waste of space defensively. When Galatasaray had the ball Valencia provided nuisance value, nothing else. He also has a terrible habit of playing the opposition onside by not being in tune with the rest of the defence.

Left wingback was Luke Shaw. At least, if he stays fit, this should be his position and he plays it very well. He is another who prefers the attacking side of the game but at least he can tackle and has reasonably good positional sense for his age.

Valencia was eventually replaced by Matteo Darmian, a more defensive minded player but one who also likes to get forward at every opportunity. When Shaw was replaced late on in the game it wasn’t with a like-for-like as United didn’t have any more wing backs on the bench.

The main problems are in central defence. As previously mentioned Blind and Bailly started the game and, whilst both being good players, neither is a commanding centre back. Bailly may become one but, at the moment, he is very young and doesn’t speak English. So the problem was one of communication and authority. Blind, quite rightly, does not consider himself a centre back and therefore finds it difficult to bark out orders to the other one. Bailly is inexperienced and probably does not feel comfortable enough just yet to take charge of the defence.

Their replacements, Jones and Rojo, coped with the very little attacking threat posed by Galatasaray in the second half. Jones, however, is injury prone and, in five years, has yet to reproduce the form that earned him a move from Blackburn. The jury is still out on Rojo. He appears to be quite a solid defender and, when Shaw went off, he moved out to the left quite comfortably. The question is whether or not he is good enough at this level and the answer will be provided in the amount of games he plays during the season, if he stays.

Chris Smalling was injured for this game but, unlike most fans, I doubt he would have made any difference. He is another who, for me, doesn’t make the grade at a club like United. He will probably be a consistent pick next season and, with some changes to the rules coming in, will be lucky if he doesn’t concede a penalty every week with his persistent grabbing! He mis-times many a tackle and is caught out of position frequently. He will occasionally try a long cross field ball as Scholes used to, the difference being that, nine times out of ten, the Smalling pass will go straight out of play.

For me, Mourinho needs to buy a commanding centre back and the one fitting this profile is Leonardo Bonucci of Juventus. Played alongside Bailly, his experience would be invaluable and would help him progress.

Ideally, Raphael Varane or John Stones would also be a good addition and then Jones, Smalling and Rojo could be sold. Unfortunately I can’t see this happening.

My faith in Jose Mourinho, however, is unwavering and I am certain that he knows the problems within the team much better than I. He will know that this performance and result in Sweden papered over a few cracks which, at some stage, will need repairing.

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