Leading up to the start of the English Premiere League season, no one was happier than I was knowing a team I have loved and followed – Manchester United – for a large portion of my life, had made great changes to ensure its fans that they would once again haul the much coveted Premier League trophy.
After losing it, devastatingly to rivals Manchester City on the last day to goal differential, there was much work to be done by management to ensure the trophy was once against brought back to its rightful place.
With the addition of the much sought after summer transfer target Robin van Persie, whose decision to leave Arsenal for greater pastures, brought great joy to fans and team supporters worldwide – not to mention the acquisition of 2012 Asian Player of the year, Shinji Kagawa, the creative attacking midfielder who led Borussia Dortmund to a second straight German league title.
Many were sceptical, those being rival fans, of van Persie’s switch to United, stating that he could not replicate his stellar 2011-2012 performance where he netted 38 goals in all competitions (including 2 goals for the Netherlands), but after 15 games (at the time of writing) he’s netted 13 goals for United – eat your hearts out doubters. Let me get back on track because United’s attacking is not the problem.
The lack of defence has been United Achilles heel thus far in the season. What was supposed to be a joyous start to the season, with the return of Captain Nemanja Vidic from an injury which had him sit out for a large portion of the 2011-2012 campaign was short lived. From the first game against a strong Everton side (United lost 1-0), the back four, particularly the two centre back spots, have been abysmal. There is no cohesion, no tactical awareness, and that has been the problem.
In the 15 Premier League games played in the early stages of the season, United conceded the first goal in 10 matches – that was surely unacceptable and an unsustainable trend.
• Everton 1-0 United – 57th minute goal by Morouane Fellaini
• Fulham 2-3 United – 6th minute goal by Damien Duff
• South Hampton 2-3 United – 16th minute goal by Rickie Lambert
• Liverpool 1-2 United – 46th minute goal by Steven Gerrard
• Tottenham 3-2 United – 2nd minute goal by Jan Vertonghen
• Stoke City 2-4 United – 11th minute own goal by Wayne Rooney
• Aston Villa 2-3 United – 45th minute goal by Andreas Weimann
• Norwich City 1-0 United – 60th minute goal by Anthony Pilkington
• QPR 1-3 United – 52nd goal by Jamie Mackie
• Reading 3-4 United – 8th minute goal by Hal Robson-Kanu
Apart from the three losses, United has made extraordinary comebacks to win each of the matches listed above after trailing. For a fan, that’s good news, but for the avid soccer enthusiast that screams ‘poor performance’, especially from a team of Manchester United’s calibre.
Something needs to be done, and fast. If Sir Alex Ferguson wants to stay in contention with the likes of the new looking Chelsea team, and the superstar line up of rivals Manchester City, the defensive core must be changed to match up with the quality of the opponents attackers.
In my opinion, though it means nothing, Ferdinand needs to go, his best days are behind him and he can’t keep up with the speed and skills of these new, younger players. The loss to Chelsea in the FA Cup replay, it was hard watching Rio being out ran and outpaced by Eden Hazard.
Evans also needs to go. Though he has been a consistent defender, he lacksa crucial skill which would make him a world class defender; that being the skill of awareness. There has been times were Evans was slow to react, which turned costly. For example, the game against Liverpool where Steven Gerrard was allowed an ample amount of time to chest the ball down and have a go at it to open up the scoring. Evans is a good defender, just not one to hold a XI position.
Vidic, though I love him, needs to go; after re-aggravating the same injury he sustained last year, it will be a journey to get back to his once glorious form.
Though the defence has been stellar following the games listed above, I still believe United can cash in on these players along with out-of-favour winger Nani using the funds gained to strengthen the defence.
List of defenders to follow:
o Mat Hummels – Borussia Dortmund (Germany)
o Angelo Ogbonna – Torino (Italy)
o Dede – Vasco Da Gama (Brazil)
o Diego Lugano – PSG (France)
o Jores Okore – Nordsjaelland (Denmark)
o Andrea Ranocchia – Inter Milan (Italy)
o Vegard Forren – Molde FK (Norway)
Hummels, though the priciest of the bunch, he is a solid defender. Having help Borussia Dortmund to two straight Bundesliga titles, he has solidified his spot as one of the best defenders in Europe. Barcelona has made their interest in Hummels known, as they are looking for a long term replacement for Carlos Puyol. If we are to go after Hummels, it would be a fight at a pricey cost.
Ogbonna is establishing himself as a top defender in Italy`s Serie A, and with a transfer rate between ten to 20 million, he would be a great pick up. Juventus has emerged as a contender to land Ogbonna.
Dede has been on the radar of United for years now. The Brazilian international, strong, quick and agile will bring the athleticism that United lacks with their current backs; and with a transfer value of under ten million, United cant go wrong. His current club has said they expect Dede to leave this summer. Due to the financial problem they are experiencing they are welcoming any bid for their standout centre-back. Liverpool and Arsenal are amongst Premiere League clubs looking to snap him up.
Attacking is not our issue. As you can see, we lead the league in goals scored with 70 while conceding 31. One might think that is nothing to worry about, but for a team of the Red Devils calibre, that’s quite a bit too much.