A mere 13 Chelsea players made 20 or more starts last season. Call it fitness, preparation or just damned luck, whichever angle you take on it, Chelsea won the league last year through consistency and fitness. Compare that to Manchester United.
The Old Trafford club used more centre back partnerships last season than Chelsea did players. 18 in total were deployed by the Red Devils.
“If you're [going to] win the Premier League, which is a very very tough league physically then you've got to have people who can get through a season, especially in [those] key positions through the spine of the team” said Rio Ferdinand, was speaking at a BT Sport media event to launch the broadcasters football coverage for the coming season.
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Centre backs need to gel as a partnership, to understand each others rhythms, their strengths and weaknesses. John Terry and Gary Cahill have now played together for three years and have matured as a pair thorough that time.
Defensively Manchester United are weak, out of the 18 partnerships used last season, not one of them looked confident.
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None one of their defenders would be considered solid and arguably not one would make another current top four first team. Add to this their fitness issues and you begin to worry for United.
“Before you even talk about the quality of the centre backs that Manchester United have got, fitness is the biggest problem, Jonny Evans has had a lot of problems, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling haven't really completed full seasons without injuries.” Quality is one problem, but it wouldn't look so bad if they could at least rely on one partnership.
Their team remains a jigsaw, the pieces have been thrown across the living room carpet in sheer desperation, you've began with the corners but pieces remain missing and others seem impossible to place together.
Despite this Robbie Savage, speaking at the same BT event, believes the pressure is already on Van Gaal to succeed “The money he's spent, Van Gaal, if he doesn't get off too a good start, I Think he's got massive pressure. You can’t spend £260 million pound on a team like Manchester United and finish fourth this season.”
The fans will expect instant results but as the new season approaches but with pieces still missing Van Gaal has his work cut on to put together an unlikely, but expected title charge.
‘BT Sport 1 has the first game of the new Barclays Premier League season with Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur this Saturday from noon, the first of 38 exclusively live Barclays Premier League games this season on BT Sport.
This season BT Sport Europe is the new home of European football with all UEFA Champions League matches and UEFA Europa League matches exclusively live, visit btsport.com/europe.’