Much was made last season about United’s porous defence. It was a consistently inconsistent area of the pitch in terms of personnel, with both Mourinho and Solskjaer unable to settle on a first-choice back four, both due to lack of form and injuries, but also due to a lack of star-quality. The modern game means the role of the centre-half has changed. No longer is a player in that position meant to only defend – they are meant to be the starting point for attacks; defenders more and more are having to be comfortable with the ball at their feet, to bring the ball out from the back, and to play forward passes, instead of rely on a sideways pass to their full back. Early on against Leeds United on Wednesday we saw Victor Lindelof do exactly that, bringing the ball from inside his own half to the edge of the opposition box, setting up a chance for Marcus Rashford who hit the outside of the post with his attempt on goal. Lindelof’s run epitomises what United have been lacking in recent years with the likes of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones still regular names on United’s teamsheet, to the weariness of United supporters. With Lindelof the only senior centre-back United fans are seemingly content with staying at the club, I ran a poll on Twitter earlier this week to see which player the fans would most like to exit the club, with one defender probably needing to exit to make way for the (probably) incoming Maguire, if rumours are to be believed. So out of Phil Jones, Eric Bailly, Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo, which player would most fans want to see the back of?
Case to stay – Stronger with the ball at his feet than Smalling, and is occasionally able to bring the ball past pressing attacking opposition.
Case to leave – Makes too many high-profile mistakes. Synonymous with failure, epitomised by his comical facial-expressions and the memes that surround him. Never kicked on and achieved his potential from joining United. Injury prone which restricts picking up a good run of form.
Case to stay – Smalling is strong aerially, and is good when given a man-marking job.
Case to leave – Smalling is very predictable with the ball at his feet. Often, he prefers a sideways or backwards pass. Doesn’t fit the modern profile of a ball-playing centre back, hence why he can’t break back into the England team. Prone to a high-profile error once every few games.
Case to stay – Has desire and good work-rate. In the 2016-17 season he was United’s best CB before his shocking injury. If he can reach that form he’d be a solid squad player.
Case to leave – Played hardly any football last season and has a huge task to put himself back in contention as a serious option. Easiest option for United to cut from their wage bill.
Case to stay – When on form he’s got quality. Able to read the game and makes fantastic tackles. Confident with the ball at his feet and aerially. Compliments Lindelof well.
Case to leave – Occasionally makes rash decisions, and prone to picking up both cards and injuries.
So what do the fans think?
- Sell Phil Jones – 52%
- Sell Chris Smalling – 12%
- Sell Marcos Rojo – 34%
- Sell Eric Bailly – 2%
So out of 1201 votes, over 600 United supporters feel that Phil Jones’ time in a red shirt should be over. Just over 300 want to see Rojo walk out of the exit door, while hardly any think that Eric Bailly should be sold. Chris Smalling should apparently be given another season at Old Trafford.
Poll held on Twitter – @arichards20
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