Manchester United’s Defence Is Still Their Achille’s Heel

Posted: March 7, 2018 in Arsenal, Chelsea, Football, Jose Mourinho, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Opinion, Premier League, Tottenham Hotspur
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This United defence has been living a lie for a long while in that the first time David De Gea has a bad game they are exposed for the average defenders that they really are.

In the game against Palace, De Gea was beaten by a deflected shot by Andros Townsend, who was given far too much time and space on the edge of the area and, in the second half, he was beaten at his near post by Patrick van Aanholt, who took advantage of a quick free kick while United’s “defence” fell into a deep sleep.

The problem is that, if De Gea had saved these two efforts, we would again be talking about a clean sheet for United and lauding another fine defensive performance by them.

Manchester United v Everton - Premier League

David De Gea – Without him Manchester United’s defence would exposed for what they really are!

The defence is nothing short of woeful and the fact that De Gea regularly wins the “player of the season” award and, on occasion, picks up the “player of the month” award as well is proof of this sorry fact. Teams who have good defences rarely see their goalkeeper winning awards!

As regular readers of these chronicles will be aware, we have been less than wholesome in our praise for the likes of Antonio Valencia and Chris Smalling in the past and can only express our continued amazement that they still form the basis of that “defence”.

There may be an injury crisis at United but, in truth, the potential replacements, with the exception of Eric Bailly, are not much better than those selected against Palace.

Maybe José Mourinho is trying to adopt the attitude of Manchester City whereby the team has an average of 71% possession and the defence isn’t needed too often. The problem with this is that United aren’t as good as City and their average possession is only around the 58% mark.

The other aspect of the City defence which is much better than United is that they have genuine full-backs, with pace, in the correct positions. They are also both under 30 years of age.


Eric Bailly – One of the very few good defenders at Old Trafford


What do United have? They have two converted wingers who haven’t a clue about the defensive side of the game, can’t tackle and are both over 30. Why does Mourinho like them? Because they can run up and down the pitch! This doesn’t prevent either of them being regularly caught out of position as was the case when van Aanholt scored for Crystal Palace whilst Valencia was still counting sheep.

The central defenders were Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof. The Swede is still on probation to an extent but needs to start putting in some solid performances if he is to become a regular member of the back four at United.

As for Smalling, again our views on him are neither new nor uncommon. He is like a baby giraffe and defends just as clumsily. If referees ever start to penalise defenders for grabbing their opponents in the penalty area then Smalling will concede a couple of penalties, at least, in every game.

Always happier passing sideways or backwards he can misdirect headers, passes and can be caught miles out of position, although he has improved on the latter in the last couple of years.

His goal against Palace, whilst it was a good header, would have been ruled offside had James Tomkins not been guilty of sticking when the rest of the defence twisted. It was really only because Smalling was too slow in moving out that he was still in position to score when he did.


Luke Shaw – Still can’t get in the team, in his natural position, ahead of an old winger!

So there is, and has been for a while, room for improvement in defence. If Luke Shaw, a dedicated international left back is not the answer in that position then Ashley Young, an ageing winger, most certainly isn’t.

If Matteo Darmian, a dedicated international right back, is not the answer in that position then Antonio Valencia, another ageing winger, most certainly isn’t.

In the summer United need to buy two new full backs and a central defender. If there is any truth in the reports of Fellaini and Herrera leaving then he also needs another holding midfielder.

Of course, he could save the club a lot of money by just adapting his tactics to be like those of City, which means keeping the ball a lot more than they do but, having watched all of United’s games this season, one of our biggest complaints has been how easily they give the ball away, so that wouldn’t appear to be an option.

Whichever solution Mourinho eventually plumps for one thing is guaranteed, it will involve the club spending many more millions of pounds!


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