Manchester United’s defenders have made far too many mistakes this year for anyone to be convinced that they’re good enough.
Their performance in United’s 2-1 defeat to Istanbul Basaksehir on Wednesday was abject. Paul Scholes compared it to Under-10s football, which might be harsh on Under-10s.
It’s been a rough ride for Harry Maguire and co. Only four teams have conceded more than the 13 goals they’ve shipped in the Premier League so far this season.
What’s the solution? New signings?
According to ESPN, they’re eyeing a new centre-back in the January window.
But recent history shows United can’t be banked upon to bring in a quality defender who will erase their woes at the back.
We’ve decided to rank all 12 centre-backs that the club have signed since 2000 from worst to best. It doesn’t look good for the £75 million Maguire…
12. Gerard Pique
Pique has gone on to enjoy a remarkable career, which makes it odd to see his name at the start of the list.
But he was young when he joined the Red Devils in 2004 and only made 23 first-team appearances before returning to Barcelona four years later.
Ultimately it’s hard to give Pique a proper assessment due to his lack of action.
But with multiple La Liga and Champions League winner’s medals to his name, he won’t care about coming 12th.
11. Marcos Rojo
Rojo remains on Man United’s books but it’s hard to imagine him ever playing for the Red Devils again.
The Argentinian has played at left-back and centre-back but he was often a liability, partly due to his reckless approach.
10. Daley Blind
The Dutchman had technical skills but never did find his best position at United.
He started the 2016/17 season as United’s first-choice centre-back but quickly fell down the pecking order under Jose Mourinho and returned to Ajax in 2018.
9. Phil Jones
Sir Alex Ferguson tipped him to become United’s best ever player, a prediction he was just slightly wrong about.
Lapses of concentration and silly mistakes have hurt Jones throughout his career at United, which has gone on for longer than many people expected it to.
He’s also not been helped by a number of injuries.
8. Laurent Blanc
Blanc was brought in to replace Jaap Stam in 2001 but he was 35 years old and coming to the end of his career.
Fergie’s side shipped 45 goals in 38 league games in his debut campaign on their way to a third-place finish.
But the Frenchman turned things around and helped United win the title in 2002/03. He retired at the end of the campaign.
7. Eric Bailly
Bailly might be United’s back centre-back.
But the problem is he cannot stay fit.
The Ivory Coast international has endured rotten injury luck in recent years, failing to play in more than 18 games since 2016/17.
Knee and ankle injuries have meant Bailly has missed more than 300 days, and he’s currently nursing a muscular injury that has seen him out of action since early October.
He’s 26 years old now and won’t be given many more opportunities.
6. Victor Lindelof
There’s every chance that Lindelof could bump himself up a few places on this list before he leaves Old Trafford.
He could also fall a few spots, too.
The Swede had his best season at the club last season, suggesting he had recovered from his slow start and was ready to be a consistent performer.
But he appears to have taken a step back in 2020/21.
And his grip on a regular spot in the starting line-up will loosen if he continues to struggle.
5. Harry Maguire
Some will wonder what Maguire has done to rank fifth on the list - which, by the way, isn’t really impressive - but his best moments for United are often overshadowed by the low ones.
The 27-year-old is going through a rough patch, which wasn’t helped by the summer drama in Mykonos.
But he’s not been a flop and has added leadership to United’s backline.
The £75 million fee makes things look worse but Maguire was never worth that price in the first place.
4. Gabriel Heinze
Heinze played predominantly at left-back but he was also a decent fill-in at centre-back during his three years at United.
United fans might have forgotten that, though, their memories of the Argentine clouded by his desire to force a move to Liverpool in 2007.
But Heinze won the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award in 2004/05 and played with a fire that helped him flourish at the club.
3. Chris Smalling
You have to give credit to Smalling for reinvigorating his career at AS Roma.
The centre-back arrived at United from Fulham in 2010 and went on to win two Premier League titles under Ferguson.
But he was a maligned figure at Old Trafford, perhaps because he didn’t meet many people’s expectations by succeeding Rio Ferdinand, and was loaned out to Roma in 2019.
Put him in Solskjaer’s current squad and Smalling starts every week.
2. Nemanja Vidic
The final two names on the list were true legends.
Firstly, Vidic. The Serbian beast.
“He became a defender that was feared,” Rio Ferdinand said in 2016. “He could fight with the most physical, he crunched into tackles, he attacked the ball better than anyone I’ve ever seen.”
Vidic brought a tenacity that hasn’t been seen in United’s defence since his departure. He won five Premier League titles and the Champions League, and will always be a respected figure at the club.
1. Rio Ferdinand
And Vidic’s partner, Ferdinand.
United spent a then-British record £29.1 million to sign Ferdinand from Leeds United in 2002, but he turned that fee into a bargain.
Ferdinand was elegant in possession, with superb technical abilities. He combined that with great physical traits and unrivalled leadership.
A serial winner, Ferdinand is rightly regarded as one of the finest centre-backs in Premier League history.
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