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Manchester United: Defensive Experiment Works Wonders vs. Newcastle

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 26:  Wayne Rooney of Manchester United is substituted for Nick Powell during the Capital One Cup Third Round match between Manchester United and Newcastle United at Old Trafford on September 26, 2012 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Dan TalintyreSenior Analyst IISeptember 26, 2012

Manchester United picked up a 2-1 victory over Newcastle United in the Capital Now Cup, but the talking point of the match was neither the goals nor the successful return of both Darren Fletcher and Wayne Rooney.

The real talking point was United's defense, which boasted a back four unlikely to strike fear into the hearts of their opponents—probably because they'd have no idea who they were.

Alexander Buttner, Scott Wootton, Michael Keane and Marnick Vermijl were the four men entrusted to guard United's goal, and despite giving up a few chances and looking vulnerable to the attacking quality of Papiss Cisse, the young quartet were excellent in defense.

A strong performance from his inexperienced defenders was exactly what Sir Alex Ferguson needed to see against Newcastle United.

Regardless of whether United would win the match comfortably or struggle their way to victory, the defensive experiment was one that Ferguson needed to take during the week. He should be very satisfied with the results.

Now competing in multiple competitions, United need good depth if they are to win the English Premier League or the UEFA Champions League. As far as the defensive side goes, depth is probably the last word you would use to describe the Red Devils' situation.

Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and now Nemanja Vidic are all currently on the injured list. The latter two are not expected to return until at least November (per PhysioRoom).

That leaves just the mistake-prone Patrice Evra, Johnny Evans, the aging Rio Ferdinand and Rafael Da Silva, who can get caught attacking too high for United. 

Players like Buttner can provide defensive cover, as can players like Antonio Valencia, Tom Cleverley and Michael Carrick if they really need it, but the simple truth is that United are extremely thin at the back for the next two months or so.

They are extremely thin and, as a result, could well find themselves on the outside of multiple competitions because of it. Thus, Ferguson's defensive experiment was one that needed to take place and one that he will be very satisfied with.

Wootton and Vermijl were particularly impressive for me and you can probably expect to see the pair feature in the starting side throughout the rest of the season. They are the type of players that add defensive depth—depth needed to win both the Premier League and the Champions League.

With the points in the bag and strong performances right across the board from his inexperienced back four, Ferguson will no doubt be pleased with his defensive experiment and United fans should be pleased as well.

It shows that, despite the injuries, they have the players available who can step up when their side needs it, and have the depth required to be a competitive force right throughout the Premier League and Champions League season.

 

Were you impressed with the defensive performance against Newcastle?

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