April 27, 2019
After their 2-0 defeat at Old Trafford to Manchester City in Wednesday’s Manchester derby, a new record was broken at the Theatre of Dreams. It was the first time for 40 years that Manchester United had conceded 50 goals in the top flight league and there are three more matches remaining this season. United has failed to keep a clean sheet in their last eight league matches, the last 12 in all competitions.
The last shutout was against Liverpool at Old Trafford on the 24 February 2019, a 0-0 draw. Since then, 15 goals have been conceded in the league, a total of 22 goals conceded in all competitions. Considering the strengthening of the clubs defence last summer was vetoed by Ed Woodward because of the class of players Jose Mourinho wanted was no better than the players the club already had, it has shown Woodward up for his lack of footballing knowledge once again.
Conceding 50 goals in a single season is something that you would not expect from a top six club, which is where this United squad is this season. They are no longer, at the moment anyway, a top four club in the league. Arsenal (fifth) has conceded 46 goals, Chelsea (fourth) has conceded 38 goals, Tottenham Hotspur (third) has conceded 36 goals, Manchester City (second) has conceded 22 goals and Liverpool (first) has conceded just 20 goals.
Last season, United got through the season by conceding just 28 goals, also finishing second in the league, which was a feat with the current squad, which has three additional players which arrived in the summer and is minus Marouane Fellaini, who left for China during the January transfer window. I guess Woodward looked at the number of goals conceded last season, compared it with that of City, which was just one fewer, presuming that United’s defence was just as good as the defence at City.
This summer, the defence will need an overhaul. Chris Smalling and Phil Jones have been rewarded with new long-term contracts, which is frustrating as they are nothing other than squad players, although Smalling is the better of the two defenders. Victor Lindelof has emerged this season as a player that could find himself in the squad more often than not, especially with a solid partner. But the liked of Eric Bailly and Marcos Rojo have been used sparingly, by both Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Woodward will probably blame United’s poor defence on the manager, which is not the case. It is to be blamed on the ineptitude of the defenders at the club and the fact the club seems to think that keeping hold of mediocrity is much cheaper than bringing in new, much better players, which might be the case if you are talking about cool, hard cash but not if you are talking about achieving anything of note with the club. After nearly a decade, it is clear that Smalling and Jones are not good enough to be the first-choice defenders.
Solskjaer will have his own plans for this coming summer, in which he will be tasked with a summer rebuild of the club. Getting Axel Tuanzebe involved in the defence would be a good start, especially after a positive season on loan with Aston Villa, who are currently in a playoff position in the Championship. Tim Fosu-Mensah, who has previously played at right-back, central defender and central defensive midfielder would be a shout also, however, he will probably have his targets, especially if one of (or both) Bailly and Rojo leave the club this summer.
League titles are won with defence. This is what Sir Alex Ferguson once said and Solskjaer has learned from the master. He will be starting well if he can sort out this leaky defence this summer and actually find a way of bettering the players he has, which could start to happen if a player who is also considered as a leader is added to the squad, preferably at the back. The Norwegian could then start to move on and deal with other aspects in his squad.
Is Ed Woodward willing to take a back seat in this rebuild though or will be still be expecting to oversee everything, even though his knowledge of football must be on the same level as someone who has never watched the sport? Will he veto the players Solskjaer wants ‘because they are no better than the players the club currently has?’ These are the things that worry
When you have an accountant making these decisions, it makes me wonder if this club wants to achieve things at all. Sooner or later, with this lack of improvement, having players like Paul Pogba will not entice sponsors to part with their cash in order to keep the Glazers happy with the club. Does that need to happen in order to get rid of these paracites?