Once again we’ve been fortunate enough to get the great Alex Timperley to write for 90second football. Read his thoughts here then follow on twitter @weneedyoualex
Manchester United have been on the receiving end of an uncharacteristic level of criticism over the pre-season, all of it deserved. David Moyes acting like a star struck, incontinent teenager; Rooney acting like the massive bald baby that he is; the ludicrous “#UnitedContinues” hashtag. Over and above all that, popular wisdom says that the one area where they have truly failed this summer: Midfield.
This is incorrect.
Their midfield undoubtedly has a large hole in it. This is where a joke about Anderson being able to plug a large hole would normally suffice, but it feels cheap. When Michael Carrick is the most dynamic midfielder, it is a problem. When the young hope is the soon to be 24 years old Tom Cleverly, it is a problem. When Ryan Giggs is still a vital cog of your midfield at his age, it is a problem.
But it is not the biggest problem.
Take a long look at the defence. Braptain Rio and Nemanja Vidic are still top quality, despite their age and both apparently being made of glass. Who is there beyond this? If Both Ferdinand and Vidic were to suddenly retire, for instance because of injury or old age, then who is there to step in and be the bedrock of a Premier League or Champion’s League winning side. Jonny Evans would be the Senior Pro.
I’ll give you a second to read that again and let it sink in.
Jonny Evans would be the senior central defender for Manchester United. Behind him currently are Phil Jones and Chris Smalling. Both are talented players in an obvious way, but as first choice over a 60 game campaign?
Smalling has an eye for a pass and a top drawer first touch but is one of the more injury prone footballers that have played in the Premier League era. We still don’t know what Jones’ best position is. He has all the hallmarks of being excellent, and is a tough little bastard to boot, but he keeps getting shifted around, not getting a run in any one position.
Man United have no convincing defender who bridges the age gap between the successful Rio/Vidic axis and the youngsters. Evans is not a convincing footballer and has little experience leading the line and shouldering the hopes of the Old Trafford faithful alone. It is no fault of his own, but through his time at United he has always been supported by World Class defenders. That is a good situation to learn technique and defensive skill, but being surrounded by players like that your whole life does not teach leadership.
This is a problem that will be rearing its head in the next few seasons. The joy that my United supporting friends felt that Vidic completed a whole 90 minutes speaks volumes.