Following the recent departure of John O’Shea and Wes Brown, who should both be credited for their incredible contributions to the club, I must confess to a great deal of worry for next season, if we do not strengthen at the back this summer.
Both used to playing at the highest level, under immense pressure, I am sure they will be great additions to Steve Bruce’s squad (especially considering their price) but their departure will not go unnoticed at Old Trafford, as we only have to look back at the 08/09 season when the club encountered a torrid period of injures.
During the winter months of 2009, Ferdinand, Vidic, Brown, O’Shea, Evans, Rafael, Fabio and Jonny Evans were all injured at times. Accumulating in a disastrous run which I believe was largely at fault for our failure to record a fourth consecutive Premier League title.
By the time we made the trip down to West London to face Fulham, Sir Alex was forced into playing Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher and Richie De Laet in central defence with Antonio Valencia and Patrice Evra at full-back as we were humbled 3-0 by Roy Hodgson’s side.
Following this scenario, United added Chris Smalling to the squad last season and his addition was pivotal, as he ended up featuring in more than half of our league games. However, with the departure of Wes and John, I feel we could find ourselves once again in trouble at the back, if we go through another unfortunate run of injuries this season, despite the addition of Phil Jones to the squad.
Despite the fact that it was pleasing to see Rio make a more regular return to the team, towards the end of last season, it is clear that we are unable to rely on his fitness in the long term but he is still undoubtedly a world-class member of our squad. Coupling this with the ability of the improving Phil Jones and Jonny Evans and we are probably stronger than ever at centre back.
However, strength is not the word I would use for the rest of our defence. Although, I am a massive fan of Rafael at right back, and feel his defensive work has improved tremendously, it seems the boy is either constantly injured or suspended. Similarly, it is clear that his brother, Fabio, is an excellent player, who can slot in nicely at right and left back, but his injury record is suspect too.
Add to this the departure of Brown and O’Shea, who both primarily played as full-back in recent seasons and it seems we’ll be seeing more of Evans and Smalling on the sides of the defence next season.
Although I remember seeing both Smalling and Evans at right back and left back respectively during the end of last season, it is clear both players are more comfortable in the middle. Despite the criticism, Evans may have got last season, following the nightmare night he had against Carlton Cole in the League Cup, I still feel that he is a very talented player who has a lot of potential, despite his demotion to 5th choice CB in the squad.
Looking at the relative lack of depth in our full back areas, there has been much speculation in the press about a possible move from Sir Alex for Celtic left back, Emilio Izaguirre. Winning every individual award possible last season, including the Scottish Premier League Player of the Year, and having watched him on a number of occasions myself, I can see why Sir Alex is interested in him; Similar to Evra in style, I’d say Izaguirre is a world-class left back, who possesses a slightly-superior end product to our current first-choice left back and slightly-inferior tackling ability.
Add to this the fact that there are not many top quality left-backs in European football at the moment, shown through the £27 million fee Real Madrid paid for the services of Fabio Coentrao, I would consider a move for Izaguirre to be a shrewd one – especially considering the relatively modest fee Celtic would be able to demand (if you believe that he is pushing for a move away from his SPL-sized contract).
Overall, although I am happy with the quality of defenders we already have in our squad, I think the addition of another full-back could ensure we have a smooth run towards our 20th Premier League title, regardless of however many injuries may strike down certain players. Looking at it, I think Celtic’s Honduran full-back could well be the player to full this gap, leaving Sir Alex with the task of only finding a central midfielder before the Premier League season kicks off next month.
About Joseph Maloney
A massive United fan, Joseph has been a season-ticket holder at Old Trafford for the past 5 seasons and is currently studying sports journalism at University. Hoping to succeed in the tough world of football media, Joseph will be writing more often on Can They Score in the coming months, as he hopes to express his passion for the club through his writing.