Nemanja Vidic.

Nemanja Vidic explains Manchester United's problem in defence

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An eye-watering £150 million spent on summer signings and yet the same issues still reside at Manchester United.

In the space of eight days, the Red Devils have lost three games and done so through a mixture of shoddy defending and a distinct lack of work rate.

Where the latter is concerned, it was today revealed that Jose Mourinho's men have covered the least distance in the Premier League so far this season, recording a combined mileage of 526.6km, almost 60km less than Liverpool.


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As for defending - well, two of the three goals conceded against Watford on Saturday were the result of players failing to track their men and affording too much space.

Mourinho clearly has a lot of work to do but in Nemanja Vidic's eyes, there's an underlying problem with United's back line that's becoming more and more prevalent in professional football: midfielders playing in defence.

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Yes, the recently-retired centre-back attributes United's frailties at the back to "non-defenders" being played out of position.

He told FourFourTwo: "Football is changing, with Barcelona being the best example of that. Midfielders play as centre-backs. But if you face Barcelona then you are playing against a team who will always attack.

"Even at United, though, Daley Blind and Michael Carrick play as defenders. Left-backs can play as central defenders. That wouldn't happen before.

Hull City v Manchester United - Premier League

"Is the game changing or are there not enough defenders? I'm not sure. Do we want defenders any more? Some managers don't know what they want.

"I know what I like: defenders to defend. Defenders bring balance to a team and having too many non-defenders can lose that."

Vidic's message is simple: play defenders in defence, not midfielders.

It's a completely rational argument to make, of course. Mourinho has Chris Smalling at his disposal yet the Portuguese has started him just once this season, opting instead for a centre-back duo of Eric Bailly and Blind.

Watford v Manchester United - Premier League

In Vidic's opinion, it's Smalling that should be playing at the heart of United's defence and that he has the potential to be even better.

"I still believe in Chris Smalling," he added. "He did well last season and he can improve and do better.

"He has the mentality to defend, and the physical size to do it. He likes to defend. With a good partner he can be even better."

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