Martin Keown has hit out at Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly following Manchester United’s defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday.
The pair were deeply at fault for Brighton’s opener, with Lindelof getting the wrong side of Glenn Murray while Bailly’s positioning, once again, was awful.
They then fell apart in the box for the home side’s second, melting in the face of Brighton’s physicality, before Bailly recklessly gave away a penalty on the cusp of half time.
Writing in a column for the Daily Mail, Keown noted how the pair looked totally devoid of confidence in defence.
“Is it any surprise that Manchester United’s central defenders made mistakes?” he said.
“Jose Mourinho made the first blunder of United’s season by publicly demanding new signings all summer.
“In doing so, he was effectively telling his players that they are not good enough.
“It creates doubt within the group. Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly played as if they were on borrowed time and the whole team looked shorn of confidence. Every misplaced pass was applauded by the Brighton fans.”
In a word, it was chaos. Bailly and Lindelof on their own have shown themselves to be more than competent defenders at United. That is no question. Put together and pitted against the physical but limited attack of Brighton, however, and they withered away like a muffin in the rain. Never once did they exude a sense of control.
And that is what happens when Mourinho, despite signing the pair for around £60m in total over two years, refuses to use them as a defensive pair for the entirety of the 2017/18 campaign. This was just their second competitive appearance as a duo in defence, and it showed.
The 55-year-old’s failure to improve his players – on both an individual and collective level – was glaringly on show yesterday, and you struggle to see just how the situation will improve.