After being mauled by Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford this weekend, especially in the first half, Manchester United need to step up their defensive game. Without captain Nemanja Vidic, the Red Devils have struggled and have left gaping holes to be exploited by the opposition.
The second half was a more promising affair. However, had Spurs decided not to sit back and defend their lead, things might have proved more awry for United.
While the defence needs to be blamed, they are not the only culprits. Indeed, the full-backs were caught out of position—especially Rafael—and center-halves struggled with the pace of the opposition. The midfielders shied away from their defensive duties, too, while players like Nani offered little defensive contribution.
Here are four players who need to step up until Vidic returns:
Obviously, the majority of the defensive burden is expected to fall on Ferdinand, as one of United’s best defenders of the last decade. However, against Tottenham, he was turned inside out by Gareth Bale and his positioning left a lot to be desired.
Last season, Ferdinand formed a strong partnership with Jonny Evans (who was equally abysmal against Tottenham). Hopefully, the duo can replicate their fine performances in the heart of defence this year.
How the mighty have fallen.
Once heralded as among the greatest full-backs in the world, Patrice Evra’s days seem to be numbered. Despite the occasional flash of brilliance, Evra is too often caught out of position. Furthermore, he struggles going forward and in providing an offensive outlet down the left flank.
With Alexander Büttner looming ominously in the background, Evra needs to seriously step up his game. The Frenchman was arguably the team's best defender against Tottenham, but must churn out more consistent performances. As the leader of the defence, let alone the team, he needs to take added responsibility in maintaining the back line and making sure players are not caught out of position.
It was a mixed performance from Nani against Tottenham. While he did look sharper than usual, he needs to track back and help out his team more often.
He will be given a few more opportunities, but if he shrugs off his defensive duties, Nani’s days will be numbered as well.
From an offensive standpoint, Rafael provides an excellent outlet down the right flank and combines well with Antonio Valencia. He often overlaps with his winger, frees him up and can whip in a nice cross as well.
Offensively, he is a fantastic full-back.
Defensively, he leaves a lot to be desired.
The right-back position is essentially his, but for a starter, there is a lot expected of him.
In big games, he is too often caught out of position, as was evident against Tottenham. Until Vidic returns, he needs to focus more on his defensive duties and less on attack.
Even with Nemanja Vidic’s eventual return, Manchester United will still have defensive problems.
With the evolution of more fluid tactics, such as the 4-2-3-1 formation, United will be overrun in midfield. This team must invest in a destroyer—a strong player who can effectively shield the back four—in the January transfer window.
Who should United buy? Have your say.
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