A familiar problem is responsible for the gradual erosion of Manchester United’s Premier League title challenge over the past few weeks: bad defending.
After last weekend’s frustrating 1-1 draw at West Brom, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer lamented his side’s lack of creativity, but, in reality, the visitors were once again undone by sloppiness at the back.
Granted, the attack had an off-day but they still bailed out the defence, which was breached after just two minutes of play at the Hawthorns.
Mbaye Diagne’s opener offered a timely reminder that Victor Lindelof is simply not strong enough for the English top flight. But while certain individuals are not of the requisite quality to play in a title-winning team, United also have a collective problem.
At West Brom, Solskjaer’s side were once again punished for sitting too deep. They failed to push to push out quick enough, as Gary Neville highlighted on Sky Sports.
“If they don’t start doing it (pushing out quickly), they’re never going to get to a point where they’re winning the league,” the former United defender argued. “I think teams nowadays, you have got to be aggressive in getting out of your box.”
Being too slow to get out, especially on set-pieces, is just one of the problems that has plagued the back line all season long. It has cost United points, so you can see why a centre-back is top of the summer transfer wish-list.
Dayot Upamecano, who announced last week that he will join Bayern Munich in the summer, was under consideration for a while, but United dropped their interest in him last year, after never making a serious move for the Frenchman.
However, United are interested in Upamecano’s RB Leipzig team-mate Ibrahima Konate, as well as Sevilla’s Jules Kounde and David Carmo of Braga.
For now, though, Eric Bailly should be starting alongside Harry Maguire in the heart of the defence, as he underlined with another solid performance in Thursday night’s Europa League demolition of Real Sociedad.
Not only is Bailly stronger than Lindelof, he’s also quicker, making him a significant upgrade on the Swede.
For Solskjaer’s quick, counter-attacking football to be successful, the foundations at the back need to be firm, which is why the manager was so enthused by what he saw from Bailly & Co. in Turin.
“On a night like this, when we find spaces, we can be a dangerous team,” the Norwegian told BT Sport after the game. “We had to defend well, they have some terrific players up front, and we earned the right to counter-attack quickly. They opened up and we got the spaces we wanted.”
Real Sociedad manager demands reality check after Manchester United thrashing
Real Sociedad manager Imanol Alguacil has demanded a reality check after the reaction to his side’s defeat against Manchester United.
The La Liga side were thrashed 4-0 by United on Thursday night as the two teams met in the first-leg of their Europa League round of 32 tie.
A brace from Bruno Fernandes and goals from Marcus Rashford and Daniel James secured the win as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side preyed upon their opponents high defensive line.
Sociedad have been heavily criticised for their performance by the Spanish media, but manager Alguacil believes the reaction has been over the top considering the immense quality of their opposition.
“It seems like a relative of mine has died with all the messages that have reached me,” he told a press conference ahead of the La Liga clash with Alaves. “We have lost against Manchester United.
“If we want to be in Europe every year, what we have to do is get up, take responsibility and show that it was a bad game… we are facing one of the best teams in the world, we believed we were going to be able to face them in our own way.”