For all of the millions Manchester United have spent since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, their relative lack of investment in their defence until recently has been nothing short of alarming.
Indeed, it was certainly something Jose Mourinho brought up often and loudly during his spell in charge of the club and, as much as those grumbles were often lost amid a barrage of grouches, the Portuguese did have a point.
Until the signings of Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka, United’s spending on the defensive part of the team was really rather minimal compared to that of the attacking portion.
That’s a trait often seen from clubs chasing dreams, a budget of Real Madrid’s Galactico project of the early 2000s, but still akin to a young student revising parts of a module they are clued up on, all while avoiding the trickier concepts in a vain attempt to make themselves feel better before the big day.
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Still, having spent world record fees in the summer of 2019, United have been strongly linked with a move to Real Madrid’s all-conquering centre-back in Raphael Varane, with the Frenchman potentially being the third statement signing in an area that previously lacked any sort of voice at all.
With that in mind, and defenders on the brain, GIVEMESPORT have ranked their ten most recent first-team defensive signings.
10) Diogo Dalot
Perhaps Diogo Dalot could have become a mainstay in a United defence that had failed to even upgrade on an aging Antonio Valencia but, as the Jose Mourinho era began to crumble, the Portuguese never really got his chance.
Now, he seems set to move on.
9) Matteo Darmian
Highly-rated in Italy before joining Louis van Gaal’s overhaul at Old Trafford, Matteo Darmain rarely made either full-back berth his own and mustered only 60 Premier League appearances in the four years he was on the club’s books.
8) Alex Telles
In Alex Telles’ defence, Luke Shaw’s revival has been nothing short of breathtaking.
Not even Champions League-winning left-back Ben Chilwell can keep the United star out of the England team, so Telles’ certainly look remote.
After a protracted saga to sign the Brazilian from Porto, it’s hard to reflect on his first season in Manchester positively, albeit with the mitigating circumstance that is Shaw’s morphing into Roberto Carlos in mind.
7) Marcos Rojo
More memorable a stint than either Dalot or Darmian’s, Marcos Rojo’s time at Manchester United wasn’t exactly a roaring success.
Still, he did win the FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League across his six-year spell, featuring prominently in their conquering of a European competition. Albeit the one supporters of England’s Big Six seem to treat with contempt until they reach the final.
6) Eric Bailly
Injuries have prevented Eric Bailly from making a regular starting berth his own.
In fact, the Ivorian has missed 99 games since joining from Villarreal in 2016, seriously impacting his first-team status. Perhaps, if he can start to get over some of those problems, Bailly’s £30m transfer fee will start to look like more of a bargain.
5) Daley Blind
Certainly the most successful signing of the van Gaal era, Blind impressed in either a central role in a back three or as a left-back. Indeed, the Dutch international racked up 141 appearances for United before moving back to Ajax and acting as a senior statesman in their impressive new generation of stars.
4) Victor Lindelof
Often derided in his early days, Victor Lindelof might not exactly be the reincarnation of Nemanja Vidic but has largely been a reliable enough signing for United.
His partnership with Harry Maguire may lack pace but that’s an issue of those responsible for building a balanced squad, rather than anything the Swede can do about it, aside from maybe improving his positional sense.
That, though, is a rather vague instruction and, for the most part, Lindelof has been functional rather than fantastic.
3) Luke Shaw
It’s important to remember just how horrific the injury Luke Shaw suffered back in 2015 was. While not to dig up old horrors, the England international almost had to have his leg amputated after suffering a debilitating leg break against PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League.
Naturally, it took the £27m signing some time to get back up to his best – a process not exactly helped by Mourinho’s strange obsession with criticising him at any given opportunity – but few would doubt Shaw’s quality now.
A prominent figure for both club and country, Shaw has to be considered one of the best full-backs in Europe at the moment.
2) Aaron Wan-Bissaka
The rise of attacking full-backs has seen Aaron Wan-Bissaka mocked for his perceived lack of cutting edge in comparison to, say, Trent Alexander-Arnold or Reece James. but that always seems somewhat unfair.
Described as the best 1v1 defender in the world by Jamie Carragher, Wan-Bisska has solved a long-running issue at right-back for United. Finally, they have an elite defender there almost a decade on from Gary Neville’s retirement and also an option to deploy him in a back-three.
Wan-Bissaka has time to improve his game going forward (as he did last season). Going the other way, however, he is arguably a level above his contemporaries already.
1) Harry Maguire
What’s so interesting about Harry Maguire is how obvious his main problem is. The lack of pace.
While that has been used as a stick to beat him with, it’s a testament to his positional sense ad leadership qualities that both United and England have looked far worse without him of late.
A dominant figure in the air and a hero for both club and country, Maguire is so crucial that talk of him being the most expensive defender in the history of football rarely emerges these days. If he can win the Premier League at Manchester United, that £80m will be money well spent.
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