Manchester United Defence Must Build on Positives from Derby Win
The pinata that is the Manchester United back line has been split wide open countless times this season, and yet still managed to put up one of its best performances in the weekend's city derby.
The fortress held for a resounding 61 minutes until a scrambled goal scored by man-mountain Yaya Toure sent his side well on its way to a faux-comeback.
For once, every United player on the pitch was deserving of praise.
Rio Ferdinand, the only man in the Premier League slower than Phil Dowd, put his rapidly aging body on the line to make several vital interceptions and blocks.
Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling relayed the other central role, each showing why they could justifiably be called the future of the Red Devils' defence.
Rafael bombed forward as he has increasingly done this term, teeing up Wayne Rooney for his second with a neat cross from the byline.
Even Patrice Evra, perhaps the least inspiring captain to have ever worn the red shirt, was imperious for most of the 90 minutes, marshalling a breaking Carlos Tevez in one instance with the assertion of the very best of his position in world football.
Of course, two goals conceded doesn't exactly scream "fantastic defensive display," but for those who have witnessed the horrors this patched up Red Devils' back line have produced this term, nothing less could be said.
This is the same defence that made Reading look like Barcelona a week and a half ago in a 4-3 victory that had a real tragicomedy feel to it.
The same defence that has conceded an astonishing 23 goals in 16 games, more than a Sunderland side who currently linger a point above the dreaded relegation zone.
United's first half performance against Manchester City was a thing of real beauty. Sir Alex Ferguson's colorful analogy of the team's defending as a "cartoon cavalcade" midweek clearly had an effect (via Daily Mail).
Credit must be given to David de Gea, who is increasingly looking like a goalkeeper worthy of his £20 million price tag.
No longer is he the boy with butter fingers, but the man who can back up his superhero reflexes with stronger punches than Juan Manuel Marquez.
Captain fantastic Nemanja Vidic has been missed—this much is undeniable. But with the Serbian's ongoing knee troubles showing no signs of ending soon, those in his absence must take added responsibility.
There were still the moments that make the die hard fan tear their hair out in frustration—the fact that at least three City players were able to get off shots in the build up to their first, and the ongoing struggles from set pieces will not rest easy in Fergie's mind.
But the point is that the early signs of improvement were obvious—with an attack that could score in a convent currently firing on all cylinders, very rarely have the lapses at the back cost the team three points.
The new year and beyond is usually the Red Devils' time to thrive. Sir Matt Busby used to say that if the side were six points off the lead by Christmas, they'd win the league.
Well, this United team is six points clear at the summit of the Premier League table and yet to really play its best football.
Once the defence catches up with the attack, why stop at domestic glory?
What did you make of the defensive performance Sunday? What has to improve?
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