Red and Write – A Case for the Defence

The Pedro and Otamendi deals hit the Manchester United fanbase hard. After months of replying to the every tweet from the club account with desperate pleas for them to announce the signings of these two players, they have ended up at title rivals Chelsea and Manchester City respectively. The Argentine and Spaniard were seen as the answers to the team’s main issues: centre back and attack. In the past two years, Old Trafford has seen an evacuation of experienced defenders with Rio Ferdinand allowed to leave for free and Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra securing moves to Serie A clubs. In attack, this summer has seen the once talismanic figures of Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao leave with little fuss whilst the club record signing Angel di Maria left for Paris in a less quiet fashion. At first glance it appears that there are gaps at both ends of the pitch that United must patch. However, this may not be the case.

Louis Van Gaal’s first season in charge was punctuated by defensive mishaps. The enduring images of the season will be the misguided attempt to introduce 3-5-2, the MK Dons humiliation in the league cup and that comeback by Leicester City at the King Power Stadium. The last of these seemed to have a huge effect on the Dutch manager’s attitude and from then on there was a new emphasis placed on physicality and defensive solidity. United then failed to keep a clean sheet in their next five games until Michael Carrick’s return to the team in November against Crystal Palace. This is where the case for United’s defence kicks in.

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We Benfi-Can’t Keep Doing That!

Manchester United played brilliantly last night, kept Benfica under pressure and their ‘keeper busy and it was a brilliant performance…eventually.

Not for the first time I was sat there thinking that the visiting team could do us a huge favour and score first, which thankfully they did. That goal, great as it was, allowed the real Manchester United to emerge; the team that stopped arsing around with 4-5-1 and Rooney wide or whatever the formation was, the team that took the game by the balls and didn’t let go until we had scored to draw level. Manchester United are a team that makes it hard, maybe because it makes it more memorable when we get to where we want to go but half the time I feel like throttling them when they play like they did in the first twenty minutes.

Who are Benfica to come to our home ground, and have time and space to pick out passes? Getting us through last night, eventually as group winners, was the most important thing. Sir Alex could mess with 4-5-1 when we were five nil up and playing the ole football. All things said, that is exactly what happened. So we can put the ECL to bed now for a few months and concentrate on consolidating our lead at the top of the Premiership.

Let’s all breathe a collective sigh of relief and admit that eventually the passion and play was as good as we wanted. Phew!