Manchester United’s defence was under the spotlight once again after the 1-1 draw against West Brom on Sunday.
Gary Neville addressed the situation on Sky Sports Monday Night Football last night.
He said that United need to find a partner for Harry Maguire. The captain is clearly the man Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants as his defensive rock.
Neville also touched on the goalkeeping issue, and feels that David de Gea’s place could be under threat in the near future too.
“We knew at the start of the season that Manchester United need a centre-back,” said Neville. “And there are question marks over the goalkeeper. Maguire and Lindelof don’t move their feet three, four, five yards up.
“They never do. They have to start doing it or they’ll never get to the point where they’ll win the league. You’ve got to be aggressive getting out of your box.
“They’ve got Fred and McTominay in front of them – two defensive midfield players – and concede a goal a game. This three are not dominant. They’re not going to turf Maguire out, so you’ve got find a partner for him.
“That’s got to be somebody of the profile of Bailly. Quick, good in the air, strong, can cover Maguire and get them up the pitch. The goalkeeping situation is going to need attending to quite soon too.
“Lindelof struggles in the air. Maguire struggles when the ball is played in behind. They’re each other’s own biggest problem.”
Neville went back over the numbers of goals that great United defences conceded.
Peter Schmeichel, Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister let in 0.73 per game over 125 matches between 1992 and 1995.
Edwin van der Sar, Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand had an almost identical record, conceding 0.72 per match across 96 games between 2006 and 2011.
United’s current trio let in a goal per game and only one of the last 20 Premier League champions have had a defensive record that bad.
As Neville touched on in his analysis, it’s about coaching and mentality as much as personnel. Maguire and Lindelof need to push up the pitch when the opponent passes the ball back, squeezing the play wherever they can.
That’s not happening at the moment and that’s something which can be sorted on the training pitch this season, before the summer when the transfer market comes into play.
Neville’s mention of Bailly reinforces the frustration about his injury record. It would be interesting to see him alongside Maguire for any length of time, because his pace could get the Englishman out of trouble at times.
Either way, it’s clear United need a more aggressive approach to defending, regardless of personnel and that process needs to start on the training pitch now – or episodes like Sunday’s will keep repeating themselves.
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