How Erik ten Hag can Solve Man United’s Shambolic Defence.

How Erik ten Hag can Solve Man United’s Shambolic Defence.

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26 Jun 2022
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Erik Ten Hag

United’s defense was a complete disaster throughout the whole game, giving up four goals or more five times, and they were humiliated 5-0 at home by Liverpool, their bitter rivals.

As United’s back line managed just eight Premier League clean sheets all season, we saw a long list of individual errors, distractions, and a lack of leadership.

Nobody survived the campaign’s automobile accident with any credit, with the exception of goalkeeper David de Gea. Every center-back was at fault at some time, including the struggling captain Harry Maguire, the £40 million addition Raphael Varane, and the erratic Victor Lindelof.

however, defensive changes are coming as a result of the new manager Erik ten Hag’s threats to grab the club by the lapels and shake it.

A vibrant center midfielder like Frenkie de Jong is the player to buy this summer. However, finding a replacement for the center defense follows fairly quickly, particularly if Ten Hag wishes to alter United’s strategy.

Jurrien Timber, a gifted defender for Ajax who is 20 years old, has been associated with them. Ten Hag is certainly familiar with Timber because he helped him join his previous squad after recognizing his potential.

At that age, Timber won’t be perfect, but he is quick to cover open ground, has good game sense, and has lots of room to grow under Ten Hag’s tutelage.

He has also received training in the high-intensity, front-foot, hard-pressing style of game that Ten Hag plans to introduce to United.

A £30 million transfer looked to be finalized a few weeks ago, but former manager Louis van Gaal seems to have thrown a wrench in the works by warning Timber that joining United would harm his international future.

Alternative targets include Pau Torres of Villarreal and Lisandro Martinez of Timber’s Ajax teammates. Before August, United will need to add someone to the back.

It is evident that the central defenders they now have are either not performing up to par or were never good enough to begin with.

Maguire will remain at the club, but it’s probable that Ten Hag may relieve him of his captaincy after the disastrous 2021–22 season.

After putting up impressive performances leading up to that tournament, the England international fell dangerously off, and immediate improvement is needed.

Maguire, who isn’t the quickest defender—a fact we all acknowledge—makes up for it with his dominance in the air and willingness to carry the ball out of defense. However, even these traits become disadvantages when his confidence is low.

Maguire requires assistance. Because of this, if an opponent succeeds to outmaneuver Maguire, a quick defensive partner like Timber would be well-suited to foresee and diffuse the risk while the captain does the physical tasks.

On Varane, the Frenchman must have been astounded by the disparity in standards between Real Madrid and United after his arrival last summer.

After being eliminated from Europe by Atletico Madrid in the last-16, United just managed to finish sixth and earn a return trip into the Europa League while his old team won yet another Champions League championship.

Varane, a World Cup champion, must have been horrified by how mediocre United was and helpless to do anything about it since everyone else’s standards were dragging down his own.

But there was reason for hope given his track record when he started alongside Maguire. United only lost twice in their combined 15 games, and they gave up less than a goal per contest.

There are therefore the beginnings of a strong central defensive combination, and Ten Hag may believe that they complement one another well enough to continue as the first choice or to play in the back three of a 3-4-3 with Timber if he comes.

Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly are more likely to go aside, and Phil Jones is undoubtedly also leaving after suffering a catastrophic injury in order to restart his career.

When Varane was injured last year, Lindelof—who cost £30 million when he first arrived—became a regular starter by default and ended up playing more games than he probably anticipated.

There are still unanswered doubts regarding Lindelof’s role and abilities, and the Swede and Maguire just appeared to transfer anxiety to one another.

The moment would undoubtedly be right for a new beginning somewhere else if United signs a new defender, who will drop to No. 4 in the pecking order.

The same is true for Bailly, who was perplexed when Maguire was chosen over him at the end of the previous season. The Ivorian played only 487 minutes of club football the whole season, making his poor status at the club quite evident.

According to reports, United is willing to cut its losses on Bailly and is willing to sell him for for £8.5 million, which is a considerable reduction from the £30 million they spent Villarreal for him in 2016. Newcastle has been mentioned, but they haven’t responded all that well.

Bailly doesn’t seem to have a path to recovery, and his absence won’t be much felt.

Axel Tuanzebe, who lost his way after keeping Kylian Mbappe off the field when United defeated Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League group stages in October 2020, is one returning player.

At Aston Villa, Steven Gerrard didn’t like the way he looked, and a subsequent loan to Napoli was cut short due to back trouble.

This week, the 24-year-old posted on social media about working hard in the gym in preparation for training camp. If United offloads a few defenders and doesn’t bring in replacements, this may be the 24-year-moment. old’s
Ten Hag has not opposed to the United team’s harsh purging of ineffective players, and the process should continue on the back line to create room for fresh faces.

United probably only need to make one signing in this position, but more crucially, the new manager has to instill faith in the existing defense, especially in Maguire.

Ten Hag will undoubtedly be on the road to oblivion like so many before him if the defensive disaster from last season occurs again.

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