Chris Smalling: Manchester United’s defence must improve this season

by Leo Nieboer

Chris Smalling has insisted Manchester United’s defence must improve after a shaky start to the 2018/19 campaign.

Jose Mourinho’s men conceded a total of six goals in defeats to Brighton and Hove Albion and Tottenham Hotspur last month, and could have conceded more.

The 55-year-old has used three different centre-back partnerships already this term – a sign of chaos at the back – although the duo of Victor Lindelof and Smalling did hold firm in the 2-0 win over Burnley on Sunday.

Speaking after the game, Smalling pointed towards the improvement United needed to make at the back if they wanted to improve from last season.

“Last season we picked up a lot of clean sheets and this year we’ve conceded early goals,” he said.

“We need to get back what we’ve done in the last few seasons when we’ve conceded very few goals, like on Sunday. It was down to us players to stand up tall and get a result, and we’re very happy with the win.”

Smalling and Lindelof looked like a strong partnership at Turf Moor, keeping solid positions and clearing their lines well, but you would be a fool to think there aren’t problems there.

The way United, under the first bit of pressure they received, capitulated defensively against Brighton and Spurs, losing their position and making silly mistakes, was the antithesis of what you would expect from a Mourinho team. A continuation of the same shakiness will almost certainly mark the end for the boss.

They face a very tough challenge against a Watford side – whose presence from set-pieces helped them beat Spurs on Sunday – with maximum points so far this season after the international break.

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