Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

LVG'S BACK ACHES HAVE COST THE REDS DEAR ; Injuries and a Raft of Individual Errors Have Conspired to Leave United's Defence in Ruins.

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

LVG'S BACK ACHES HAVE COST THE REDS DEAR ; Injuries and a Raft of Individual Errors Have Conspired to Leave United's Defence in Ruins.

Article excerpt

UNITED have so far largely been let down by an abundance of injuries and individual errors.

One has not ultimately caused the other, but it is impossible to deny a strong connection.

The Reds have conceded some woeful goals among the fourteen they have let in in the Premier League, but who has been responsible? The Manchester derby on Sunday saw United's eighth, ninth and tenth centre-back partnerships in ten league games.

Southampton have used three centre-backs and conceded five goals in that time.

It cannot be coincidence that the most miserly backline in the top flight is a model of consistency while United's scattergun partnerships have demonstrated uncertainty and inadequacy. Neither is there one reason for why United have had so many changes.

Louis van Gaal started off the season playing three centre-backs in a five man defence before abandoning that formation by the time QPR came to Old Trafford in September.

Chris Smalling's sending off against City prompted a mid-match shuffle while Tyler Blackett's red card late on against Leicester left United with a problem, having already used their three substitutes.

Then there are the injuries.

Only three of the ten games have seen a player taken off with a problem: Smalling against Sunderland, Jonny Evans against Leicester and Marcos Rojo against City.

Yet injuries between games have resulted in six separate centre- back partnerships to have started matches.

The projections in summer were that the experienced Smalling, Evans and Phil Jones would be fitter for longer than ever before.

As it has turned out, the duo to have completed the most minutes together are youth team player Paddy McNair and transfer window signing Marcos Rojo, with a collective zero league appearances before this season.

The grand total of their partnership stretches to 180 minutes, basically the two games against West Ham and Everton.

With only four of the ten pairings playing more than a single game together, it is little wonder that the individual error count seems higher than usual this season at Old Trafford; defenders simply aren't getting times to work with each other. …

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