|Skipper Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof|
Four days into the summer transfer window and it seems like Manchester United’s brand name is being dragged into speculations surrounding every single player imaginable.
The fact that the Red Devils, under the stewardship of Ole Gunnar Solskjær has ended the season at a respectable third, has and will add fuel to the fire in relation to these numerous rumours and speculations. The priority target for this window, unanimously agreed, fans and club officials alike, is a right-winger probably in the form of Jadon Sancho. But questions need to be asked if that acquisition alone might be enough going into a new season. Do we have other areas of the squad which need to be strengthened urgently?
The one that stands out is the defence. The first thing that Solskjær did on assuming reigns as the permanent manager of Manchester United is to strengthen the defence with the high profile signings of Aaron Wan Bissaka and Harry Maguire. And Ole is getting the dividends now. From conceding more than 50 goals in a single season, to becoming the 3rd best defence in the league, the back has been solid throughout the season, bar some forgettable days, specifically post-lockdown. But the team’s league position, or the improvement in the defensive stats, shouldn’t mask the evident fact staring us right in the face, that we have a lack of personnel in that department. Here’s why.
The first team centre-backs Maguire and Lindelof have been consistent throughout the year, starting week in week out. Harry Maguire despite the criticism aimed at him, has done a tremendous job solidifying the defence, and being ever-present throughout the course of the season for the manager to rely on. He played every single minute of the Premier League campaign, a feat most recently achieved by Gary Pallister for the reds. The Maguire-Lindelof partnership certainly isn’t as stellar and trustworthy as Dolly and Daisy were, but it isn’t disappointing either. There is huge scope for improvement in the partnership, and at various points in the past season, it did feel like Maguire and Lindelof had’nt quite understood each other’s game yet. Football has not been kind to the English international after lockdown, while the Swedish star has put in average performances throughout the season with remarkable displays coming very rarely. Both players were culpable for some goals. Maguire for letting Bergwijn and Stanislav breeze past him to open the scoreline and Victor for allowing himself to be bullied by Obafemi, handing the Saints a point, being the most recent of errors. But mistakes are part and parcel of the game and defenders and GK’s get blamed unfairly. As per The Athletic, Harry Maguire had taken various painkiller injections due to a hip injury issue so that he could keep playing, reducing the pressure on the manager. And the incredible stat held by Victor for not being dribbled past in the whole season does tell a lot on their characters and ability. Gary Pallister’s recent comment “Harry Maguire is the exact type of player Manchester United needed” shouldn’t be thrust aside. A man who has done it at the big stage for the club knows what he is saying!
The best back-up to the two defenders that Ole has at his disposal is Eric Bailly. What’s he up to now? Yes, injured. Speaks for itself! The reckless and aggressive defender has been enduring a tough time in Manchester after Jose signed him from Villareal. His time at Old Trafford has been injury-plagued. When it seems like he is getting back to full fitness and ready to cement his position, another issue arises. If there is one player that needs some luck to side with him, then that’s Eric Bailly. His last injury was a concussion that was inflicted by his own teammate! Simply put, can we rely on him? Certainly not! The verdict is rude but that’s what football is! RUDE.
Next up is Phil Jones. Nothing I say can change the mind of our readers and I don’t intend to. It’s been 9 years of surviving transfer windows and as his testimonial date looms large, it’s best for all parties to move him. Certainly not rude!
Axel Tuanzebe. A bright, tough-tackling young lad who has shown he has the capability to perform at the highest of levels. He has been impressive in the Academy, but senior football hasn’t been that kind. It has been injury after injury for the youngster. He has everything in him to be the next big star and has shown a desire to wear the armband in the future. But the boy has still got a lot to prove. The jury’s still out on him. Not dependable at the moment.
With Chris Smalling enjoying his time out on loan at the Serie A side AS Roma, it can be safely assumed that he won’t be wearing the Red shirt again. And Manchester United will be looking to cash on him.
This means that we don’t have a reliable back-up or even competition for our first team centre-backs Maguire and Lindelof, which itself has far too many flaws! Going into a ridiculously tiring and tight season, this might backfire on us. A centre back is urgently needed in the squad, a left-footed centre back as said by Ole, and the board needs to back him on it.
Manchester United have been linked with the likes of Kalidou Koulibaly and Dayot Upamecano for some time now, but it doesn’t look like a realistic option. And Manchester City has scooped up the dutch defender, Nathan Ake who was on our transfer radar and would have been an economical buy. Two other youngsters that could possibly switch to Old Trafford this window are Pau Torres for €65million approximately or Gabriel Magalhaes for a reported £20million.