By Mark Weasley
With Eric Bailly off to the African Cup of Nations with Ivory Coast, most Manchester United fans could be forgiven for actually fretting over what would happen to the back line of Jose Mourinho’s team, however, they have no reason to have such fear.
The defence has been superb in recent weeks, shutting out opposition for fun, and finally giving the manager that defensive solidity that his previous teams have always showcased. Bailly joined what was already a good defence from last season.
Under the much-maligned Louis van Gaal, United conceded 35 goals in the league last term, a feat only matched by Tottenham. Superbly led by Chris Smalling, the defence made a case for itself and they recorded a very decent 17 clean sheets, with David de Gea accounting for 15 of those.
United has been linked with 22-year-old Benfica star, Victor Lindelof in this month’s transfer window after being impressed with his displays for the Portuguese outfit. Lindelof also shone for Sweden at the Euros last summer, and was believed to be almost a United player after he was seen signing his autograph on a United shirt last December. Yet, the move hasn’t gone through, not because United are not willing to stump up the €45m asking price from his club, but because Mourinho has been clearly impressed with his back line in recent weeks, and doesn’t want to change a team that has won nine consecutive games across all competitions.
The unlikely pairing of Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones has brought about the defensive discipline, they are good, old fashioned centre backs who are happy to hoof the ball clear, instead of being burdened with the task of trying to pass from the back, like a certain John Stones. Bailly has gone to The Nations Cup and will have to fight for his place, and throw in the fact that there is still Daley Blind and Chris Smalling waiting in the wings for a starting berth.
United don’t need to spend money just for the sake of it, and Jose will be pleased with how well the team have grasped his philosophy after what looked like a disastrous first few months.