In the second part of this series on The Peoples Person, the Red Thoughts fan group takes up another of the latest hot topics on the club – Do we need another centre back, and if so, who should it be?
Think about it as a written podcast, a fans’ forum, a place to debate and discuss. Feel free to join in the discussion in the comments below.
JIM: If we’re going to get one, Leonardo Bonucci or Toby Alderweireld would be ideal but they’re both unrealistic targets so I’d happily take Jose Fonte instead. He’s experienced (which is exactly what we need), very underrated and he would bring a calm, steely influence to our defence. Plus we could pick him up for a bargain price. I was going to say Virgil Van Djik because I believe he’s going to be a world-beater someday but we need experience, and Fonte brings that.
BETS: Regarding the first part of the question, i.e. do we need one, there are three issues for me. First, is Bailly ready? Second, do we have enough cover? And third, can we improve on what we have? The Bailly question is hard to answer. He has been awesome so far, but we can’t know whether there will be issues to resolve. The second issue is do we have enough cover? In terms of numbers we do; and the third issue is can we improve on what we have? I would say yes. Rojo and Jones are not good enough in my opinion. Smalling was awesome in 2015 but, for me, deteriorated in 2016.
DAN: I don’t think we need another centre back – last season we had one of the best defences in the league. If we were to sign a centre back, he would have to be better than what we already have, then what does that say to Smalling, who was one of are most improved players last year and can hopefully only get better? Or to Bailly, who has looked impressive so far? He has a few things to improve on but he has the attributes to be a top class centre back. Even Blind last season put in some great displays at centre back – he may not be quick like Bailly and Smalling, but he is an excellent reader of the game and is cool and calm on the ball.
JIM: But Jones is going to have injuries again and Rojo just isn’t up to standard. If it were up to me I’d sell both, keep Blind and Darmian as cover and sign one more specialist centre back to rotate with Bailly (he’s going to be world class but I’m not sure he’s quite ready to play a full season for us).
DAN: For me, Jones has to have a good season injuries-wise and get games. I think Rojo is a good backup to have as he can play full back and centre back.
JIM: I just think Rojo has far too many mistakes in him and Jones really needs to sort out his positioning.
CARL: I think we’re fine. Bailly may make the odd mistake in the forthcoming season as he’s still learning, but who doesn’t? I think we can take much confidence from his performances so far. He’s a very physical, unreserved defender and we’ve needed a player like that for a while. He and Smalling will be centre backs that he has confidence in them, that they’re good enough to take us forward and I think people need to get behind that and they’ll respond to it positively. If there’s one area Jose is well informed about then it’s defence, so if he’s happy with it then so am I.
DAN: You can never have four world class centre backs and keep them all happy.
RICK: We don’t need another centre back. With Rojo, Blind, Smalling and Bailly we have a solid four. If anything I say we sell Jones and promote a youth product. Why waste money when we don’t need to? I say we take the opportunity to blood some youngsters.
JIM: I’d actually have Williams and Tuanzebe ahead of Rojo and Jones. Tuanzebe pretty much carried Jones when he was recovering from injury in the U21s team.
BETS: We shouldn’t see any squad member as a backup, they’re either good enough to be in the first team or they should be sold. I just don’t think Jones or Rojo are good enough (and they’re both constantly injured anyway). If we are successful in the cups there are potentially 66 games to be played this season, with 15 in the Europa league alone. Plus we’ll presumably lose Bailly to the African Nations Cup. I would be tempted to have a centre back pairing for league games (let’s say Smalling and Bailly) and another for cup games (let’s say Blind plus one).
FAB: I have been hoping that United would sign someone like Aymeric Laporte for the past two summer transfer markets. But his price tag and the fact that he had to go through a horrible injury has made me think twice. With regard to Eric Bailly, despite all his good performances at Villarreal I still had my doubts when we signed him. But so far he has shown that he is quality and the first game against Leicester said it all for me. His confidence has grown minute after minute and that’s the response I was wanting from him. If he’s ready or not, I can’t tell that for sure, but so far it’s looking good.
As for the second part of the question I completely agree with Dan. Being one of the best defences in the league is credit to Smalling and Blind and not just Dave. We have had problems with our fullbacks and during this preseason we can all say that both Shaw & Valencia have done well, which is quite exciting. Marcos Rojo really needs another chance. I might be wrong, but he really showed some good signs in the Community Shield, and based on our manager’s words of involving every player due to the intensity of matches in September, Rojo is a good option. Smalling is good, but there are some things that haven’t convinced me in him, especially in 2016, but I have to say that he has improved a lot under LVG. Phil Jones is a top lad and I do expect him to come good, and if there’s one manager that can actually transform him, it’s Jose Mourinho.
BETS: Bailly may be world class, I’m not sure yet, but the rest certainly aren’t. In every other position except RB I think we have world class players. So I say we are one short. In the past we’ve had Vidic & Rio, Bruce & Pallister…they have been the bedrock of our success. I’m not confident we have that now.
DAN: Thats part of the problem – in my generation, the Fergie era, we were blessed with so many top top defenders.
RICK: Let’s face it, there really is a shortage of top defenders who can actually defend properly, i.e. old school. Players that love to defend and take pride in defending. Nowadays, all defenders are concerned about is how many goals they can get or how they can dribble past players or how quickly or how often can they get forward. Bailly looks like a proper old school defender. But apart from that, who is there? All these centre backs just need to stick to what they should be doing and let the playmakers distribute the ball.
DAN: Exactly, I’m a firm believer in having at least one no nonsense centre-back. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be able to play the ball, but sometimes if it’s got to go its got to go – clear your lines, find touch as far away from goal as you can. A prime example is Stones – at City last season playing for Everton under pressure he was doing Cruyff turns in the 18 yard box! I admire his confidence but there is a time and place for it.
BETS: I agree totally that there are few world class no-nonsense old school defenders around and that’s exactly what we need. There are a lot of rumours on Twitter that Mourinho still wants a world class player in this position, but that the club have told him he must sell first.
Do you think Man United need a new centre-back? Leave your thoughts in the comments!