Following the departures of long-time servants and experienced defenders Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra, ahead of Louis van Gaal's first season in charge of Manchester United, the overwhelming cry was for the club to sign a top quality centre-half such as German international Mats Hummels.
Even in the most recently-closed transfer window - and despite having signed Marcos Rojo and Luke Shaw last summer - United were strongly linked with new Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos and £32million Man City capture Nicolas Otamendi.
However, since November 2014, after they had started to recover from their extraordinary defensive injury crisis, United have the best defensive record in the Premier League.
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This season United may not have been as swashbuckling or as exciting going forward compared to recent years but, with the exception of Rafael Benitez's Real Madrid (who have been fantastic at the back so far this campaign), defensively United have been as good as anyone across Europe's top leagues.
The Red Devils received their toughest examination of the season this past weekend in the 2-1 defeat to Swansea, but prior to that match they had kept three consecutive clean sheets in the league from a possible three.
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In fact, the only goal United had conceded all season was a Michael Carrick own goal versus Belgian outfit Club Brugge.
VAN GAAL'S IMPACT
Van Gaal has been working on the defensive side of United's game ever since he was appointed as manager in May 2014 and now we are starting to see the impact that he's had. He deserves a great deal of credit for the way in which he's managed to drill United as a defensive unit, because it requires a lot of hard work and application on the training field.
The Dutchman is meticulous in his preparation for each and every opponent and this ensures that his players don't get any surprises.
After the chopping and changing of last season Van Gaal has selected the same back four for every single match this season; one that consists of Matteo Darmian, Chris Smalling, Daley Blind and Luke Shaw.
So far that quartet have been very compact and worked well together as a unit. They work together help each other when it's needed. Most importantly, the four of them communicate a lot on the pitch.
Unlike most full-backs in the modern game Darmian is concerned first and foremost with the defensive side of his game. He is a solid defender who is clever, shrewd and excellent positionally, rarely getting caught out in that regard.
However, he also gets forward and is United's main source of width on the right flank. 20-year-old Shaw looks fitter and sharper this campaign following a wonderful pre-season and the left-back, despite needing no invitation to venture forward, has massively improved his defending capabilities.
It's Smalling though who has become the real dominant force in United's back four with his strength, power and speed, while Blind is the player who organises the defence and makes sure that they all keep good distances between themselves.
Additionally, Blind is comfortable on the ball and can play out from the back with ease. He doesn't have the profile of a centre-back in terms of physique and pace, but he played in the position in Ajax's youth academy and the 25-year-old Dutchman knows the position inside out.
Even Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher recently commented on the partnership developing between Smalling and Blind.
Last season United's defence had the luxury of David de Gea in the goal behind them, and he was absolutely outstanding. The 24-year-old Spaniard was United's best player, the best goalkeeper in the Premier League and he put in some world-class performances to earn Van Gaal's men some crucial points.
Meanwhile this season the contribution of summer signing Morgan Schneiderlin must be mentioned, because he's made a big difference. The Frenchman sits just in front of the back four and offers brilliant defensive protection from midfield.
IMPROVEMENT STILL NEEDED
That said, Sergio Romero's display at the Liberty Stadium was very sloppy and his kicking in particular was abysmal. Blind also failed to convince when up against the physicality of Bafetimbi Gomis, and full-backs Darmian and Shaw were both caught high up the pitch at the same time when Swansea countered and levelled the scoreline.
It will be intriguing to see how United's defence fares throughout the course of this season, starting with the visit of bitter rivals Liverpool (who now possess the physical presence of Christian Benteke) immediately after the international break.
Manchester United fans, are you happy with Van Gaal's defence? Is there anyone you would change? Let us know in the comments box below.
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