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Football News: Manchester United Must Acquire an Appropriate Centre Back in the 2019 Summer Transfer Period

Manchester United Must Acquire an Appropriate Centre Back in the 2019 Summer Transfer Period
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What has been clear to everyone with a working pair of eyes is that Manchester United's side is prone to defensive lapses and can let in silly and often avoidable goals. All great United sides have been cavalier in their approach, but did so in the knowledge that the back door was well guarded.


Partnerships such as Bruce / Pallister, Stam / Johnson or Ferdinand / Vidic have epitomised great United sides as much as cavalier attackers such as Giggs, Cantona and Ronaldo; or battlers in midfield such as Robson, Ince and of course Keane. When glancing over these names and the quality of these players, our current predicament becomes very clear, but no great side is built on a dodgy defence.


Manchester City spent nearly £300 million on defenders such as Stones, Laporte, Walker and Mendy in order to create their great title winning side of last season. Likewise, Liverpool always had a look of the bridesmaid and never the bride until they spent big on Virgil van Dijk.


It is clear that defence is the priority for us this summer if we are to start building back towards the summit of the English Premier League (EPL). Yet we have something to work with. In Diogo Dalot, Victor Lindelof, Axel Tuanzebe and Luke Shaw, we have potentially a very good defence, and that isn't even considering Eric Bailly who last season looked like our best defender. Yet injuries and a loss of form have started to form question marks over his long term future at our club.


The problem is that we have great players for the future, yet it is the here and now where we are struggling. Regular injuries and constant changing of managers has meant that no two centre backs have played consistently enough together to start to form a solid partnership. As I have already pointed out, it is the partnerships of centre backs rather than the individuals that stand out in our history. That's because unlike forward play where individual brilliance can win you a game, defending is all about working as a unit; communicating and knowing where your partner is, where the danger is and who is covering what allows defenders to make smarter choices in their defending, go to ground or stay on your feet, where to shepherd a player or when to engage or drop off.


That is why who we bring in at Centre Back (CB) this summer will be the biggest indicator of whether we have a successful year next season or not. So what makes a great CB partnership? Well, communication is obviously key. It might sound obvious, but signing a player who can't speak a common language with the other CBs will mean that it will take longer for a partnership to develop. We also need to consider what qualities our current CBs have and therefore what qualities we need in a new CB to be complimentary to what we have.


On current form, Lindelof looks like he is turning a corner and that he might be a good long term option. One of the key factors in Lindelof's improvement in form is his switch from playing Left CB (LCB) to Right CB (RCB). Although he is the most 'two footed' of our current options, his game is based more around playing out front in the defence, rather than being that 'hard nosed rock' at the back. Therefore the switch to the right makes it easier for him to play out with his stronger foot. Most ball playing defenders play on the side of their stronger foot, as its easier to tackle with your weaker foot than it is to hit an accurate 50 yard pass with the correct weight and direction.


Looking at arguably United's greatest CB pairing of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, it worked because Rio was on the right and took on the role of ball playing CB. Vidic although right footed found it easier to adapt to tackling with his weaker foot playing in the LCB role and took the role of 'hard nosed rock' at the back.


If it wasn't for Eric Bailly's rash nature, he could play in the LCB role similar to Vidic, yet his rashness on the wrong side would likely lead to him giving away too many fouls. So if we are looking for a partner for Lindelof, then they need to be comfortable on the left of a partnership in order to get the best out of Lindelof. Now as Vidic has shown, they don't have to be left footed per se, but that would be an advantage. They just need to be comfortable in the role of 'Destroyer'; That player who puts in robust tackles and steps forward to meet the attacker on the front foot, leaving the ball player to act as a sweeper cleaning up any loose balls left behind.


For me, two players really standout in that role as a LCB who is the 'solid rock'; the defend first, ask questions later kind of defender. The first is Samuel Umtiti, the bonus of Umtiti is he is left footed, he has experience at the highest level. The negative is he has picked up a few injuries over the last couple of years. The second is Jose Gimenez; although the concern here is that he too has exclusively played as a RCB, however his style means he could adapt like Vidic to playing on the left, but without much evidence this could be considered somewhat of a gamble.


The three names linked the most, for me all have concerns; Koulibaly probably is the best defender available this summer, he is comfortable playing at LCB. He is big, strong and good in the air, yet he is also more of a ball playing defender and the level of physicality in Italy is nowhere near that of the EPL. Would he be as physically dominant in the EPL? He might be a better partner for Bailly at United than Lindelof.


Milan Skriniar for me looks a dangerous purchase, firstly he is more of a ball playing CB. Secondly, he is very slow. In the EPL he could be exposed very easily, especially if his team played a high press. For the money being asked it's a no brainer, avoid him at all costs.


Then finally Toby Alderweireld; He is an excellent defender and available at a snip in the modern market. His signing would also weaken a rival, so lots to like. However, he is exclusively a RCB, meaning we have upgraded our defence, yet we haven't solved the problems with it. Also his recent injury record is pretty poor, which could be a sign of his body wearing down or that Pochettino's style and smaller squad is pushing players past their physical limit.


For me, all three although very good defenders have issues with fitting in with what our needs are. When you get down to it, that is the important thing when it comes to transfers, it's not about buying the best player in a position, but about buying the right one for the club and the team's requirements. We need to get this summers recruitment correct, otherwise whoever our manager is next year will struggle to build on whatever we achieve this season.

Written by Shappy February 04 2019 12:44:33


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