A re-energized Manchester United side have achieved a 100% win record ever since ex-player Solskjaer took over the reigns at Old Trafford. Only two out of the their eight opponents belonged to the top six. Spurs and Arsenal are arguably the weaker teams in the top six bracket so even though those wins were impressive, especially away from home, United have sterner tests coming up in the form of Liverpool, Manchester City and PSG.
The Norwegian tactician has settled on a midfield three of Matic, Pogba and Herrera, which is unsurprisingly delivering the goods for his team, giving Pogba the freedom he needs to express himself. The front three of Martial, Rashford and Lingard boasts the pace and skills required to launch the deadly counter attacks which were the cornerstone of the Fergie era success. Not to mention Lukaku, Sanchez and Mata are ready to pounce from the bench when needed. Not too shabby a bench for Ole!
One aspect of United’s game which is still a cause for worry is the defence. De Gea has been world class as usual. Lindelof, Young and Shaw have the manager’s trust and have been performing well. The main concern is who to play with Lindelof. With Smalling and Rojo sidelined, Phil Jones has been picked in most games, with Eric Bailly getting an outing in the cup versus Arsenal.
Jones is known to be injury prone and inconsistent, with his errors coming often in the worst moments. Bailly, signed to be Manchester United’s next great center back, has burned out a bit after a great start to life at Old Trafford. The Ivorian defender could still come good for his club and form a partnership with Lindelof (which was probably Mourinho’s plan when signing them). Currently, however, United need a world class defender to elevate their level of defending and it cannot wait if they want a chance at silverware this season itself.
See also: David De Gea is the Messi of goalkeepers
A world class center back could have a catalyst effect on a team which is already producing good results. We only need to look at Van Dijk’s impact on Liverpool last season to understand the effect a top center back can have. An unfancied Liverpool team made it all the way to the Champions League final and it was largely because of the dutchman’s arrival in January 2018.
Right now, United have a pretty good squad, one which only needs one or two players to challenge any team in the world. A 50m or 100m investment in a top class defender now and maybe a top-notch new right-back in the summer would solve United’s defensive frailty.
See also: See You Soon, Mou
The question is: who is available now? Toby Alderweireld has long been touted to make the move to Manchester. He has refused to extend his contract with Spurs, meaning he gets to leave for a paltry 25m at the end of August. United can pay the player much better and Spurs’ ever-lasting trophylessness will play against them. Should United wait till August? Absolutely not. They could try to snap him up for 50m now. Spurs will play hardball but if the player wants to leave, they will surely try to cash in on him now.
Another name that comes up often is Koulibaly from Napoli, who has a reported release clause of around 75m. While the big Senegalese man has undoubtedly made his bones in Serie A, the EPL is a different beast to tame altogether. It’s a bit risky to pay so much for a player who has never played in England. At this price, maybe going for Leicester’s Harry Maguire might make more sense.
See also: The Champions League draw !
Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Koulibaly, Maguire – one of these four could really help United end the season on a high. Alderweireld has my vote.
Alternatively, Solskjaer and United might feel they do not want to make any fix to the defence now but instead play out the season with the current roster, in which case Lindelof-Smalling would probably be the best partnership, once Smalling is fit. United loanee Axel Tuanzebe is performing well at Aston Villa. With Solskjaer’s ability to promote and nurture youth, he may opt to integrate the 21 year old center back in the squad in the summer to strengthen his defensive options. It’s worth noting Tuanzebe can also play at right back and defensive midfield.
Whichever choice Solskjaer and United decide to go with, we will soon know if it’s the right one, with clashes against Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal and PSG coming up soon to shape United’s season.
Please follow The Overhead Kick for more!
Photo from Pixabay