Although Jose Mourinho’s comments about commitment to the cause after the win over Swansea City were more than likely aimed at Chris Smalling, the defender’s injury gives the Portuguese coach another headache with Arsenal in waiting after the international break.
Manchester United’s success in the Sir Alex Ferguson era was based on great defence, with some legendary partnerships at the heart of the team’s rearguard.
From Pallister and Bruce through to Vidic and Ferdinand, a host of excellent centre-halves have graced the Old Trafford turf in the modern era, but the current crop do not inspire such confidence.
Smalling is set to be on the sidelines for a month with a broken toe and although the England international has not been an automatic first-choice for Mourinho this term, it is robbing the Red Devils of arguably their best defender.
Eric Bailly certainly has shown promise since a summer move from Villarreal and the Ivorian’s partnership with Smalling is probably the most solid at the United manager’s disposal currently.
With both players now on the sidelines through injury, Mourinho has some tough decisions to make at the back.
Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo started the clash at the Liberty Stadium last time out and the team were victorious but United face a number of upcoming challenges posing more of a threat than a limp Swansea side.
The prospect of Arsenal’s forward line coming face-to-face with the unpredictability of Rojo and questionable fitness of Jones will surely strike fear into the home faithful.
Hopefully Daley Blind will be fit enough to feature after the international break and should take the Argentine’s place in the starting XI.
However, the point remains, do United have a strong enough defence to put forward a Premier League title defence?
The signing of Bailly has clearly improved the group but the African enforcer still represents a raw option that need a composed defender alongside him.
As such, there is little wonder that United are consistently being linked with new defenders in the British press and Mourinho would be advised to splash out on a new centre-half in either January or next summer.
With Rojo not up to the task, Jones not always available given his fitness concerns and Blind not a specialist at central defence, the dependence on someone like Smalling is not a situation United should find themselves in.