Manchester United manager David Moyes needs to start consistency selecting a pair of central defenders, in order to stabilize the club’s currently worrying leakage of goal — most recently during the 2-1 over Sunderland.
It is understandable for any manager at their new club to have a period of learning, where they will discover who is best to fit in with their system. But the partnership between center backs is one of the most critical areas in any team, and with United’s defensive issues right now, it needs to be addressed. Perhaps other teams in the Premier League have the best defenders, but I don’t think any other team has such a quality depth for selecting defenders. That is perhaps the reason Moyes is alternating who plays together in that position so often.
However, we are all aware of the injury problems for United that Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic suffer from, meaning that they do have to be rotated fairly often. But I don’t see any emerging partnership just yet. Moyes seemed initially to be set on playing those two experienced leaders at the back, but after the 1-4 disaster away at rivals Manchester City that has been split up and seemingly put to bed for now.
I fully understand that Moyes has to witness and learn from the choices available, but perhaps after this month’s international break it would be best to see a more frequent pattern. Once two defenders become familiar with each other, things begin to strengthen across the whole back line; we know this as we’ve seen in history some memorably defiant pairings that have become the back bone to successful teams.
Moyes’ options are far larger than the majority of Premier League managers. He has Ferdinand and Vidic, and then the younger options of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling — whilst Johnny Evans is another suitable candidate.
For me, Ferdinand has really struggled so far this season; his pace is one issue but the main concern is the ability to read the game. It appears to be a weakness now and has on multiple occasions cost United now. It is no surprise to me that we haven’t seen Ferdinand since the 2-1 home loss to West Bromwich Albion.
However, I can’t see the United team at its strongest without Vidic. He is a leader and a wall that loves to defend. With him in United, they are always hard to score against; there is no denying that. The others are all fairly on par. Evans over the past few seasons has shown he is more than capable of playing in the back line regularly.
But I feel Moyes has an eye on the future and the developing talents of Jones and Smalling. I don’t think we’ll see one of them claim the place for themselves just yet, but I think Moyes needs to be brave and start favoring one as the first choice. They are both capable and both keen to play in what is their favored position. The claims that United don’t have quality center backs is absurd, they just need to get a routine sorted out.