Former Manchester United legend Gary Neville believes the defensive trio of Victor Lindelof, David de Gea, and captain Harry Maguire is not good enough to win the Premier League title.
The Red Devils were atop the league table less than a month ago but now find themselves seven points adrift of leaders Manchester City, who have played one game less. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men have dropped costly points against the likes of Everton, West Brom, and Sheffield United in recent weeks due to avoidable defensive errors.
Neville claims that Manchester United must look to improve in this area, citing the quality of centre-backs and goalkeepers who have won league titles with the Red Devils in the past.
Speaking on the current trio at the heart of Manchester United's defence, the former right-back explained;
"If you look back at the best centre-back pairings in the Premier League Manchester United have had - the relationship between them and the goalkeeper is critical if you are to win the Premier League."
"When you look at this pair now of Lindelof and Maguire, you could put the 1.8 points per game down to the fact they're playing in a weaker team, but they concede a goal a game. Even with Fred and Scott McTominay in front of them. They've got two defensive midfielders sat right in front of them and they don't move."
The ex-Manchester United captain continued,
"The key thing is that only one of the last 20 Premier League champions have conceded at least one goal per game. That tells you about these three of De Gea, Lindelof and Maguire. To win titles, that triangle of goalkeeper and two centre-backs need to be as solid as a rock.
"They need to be dominant and these three aren't dominant. The goalkeeper's not dominant at the moment, even though I thought he did OK on Sunday [vs West Brom], and the two centre-backs are not dominant. They concede too many goals and if you concede one or more goals per game, you're not going to win a Premier League. Manchester United have to look at that."
In 24 games so far, Manchester United have already conceded a staggering 31 goals, a figure which is only worse than Liverpool (32) in the top half of the table. It is also more than double the number of goals conceded by leaders City, who have astonishingly conceded only 14 goals so far, with five of them coming in one game against Leicester City in a 5-2 loss at the Etihad Stadium.
Manchester United step up Jules Kounde pursuit
With Manchester United continuing to search for a long-term partner for Maguire, they have reportedly identified Sevilla's Jules Kounde as the ideal option ahead of the summer window. The Frenchman is regarded as one of the most promising defensive talents in world football after his excellent season with Sevilla last year as well as a superb string of displays so far this season.
However, they have their work cut out for them as Kounde is one of the most in-demand stars in Europe. The 22-year-old is being eyed up by the likes of Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and other clubs as he continues to impress for Julen Lopetegui's side.
Kounde was a subject of great interest for Manchester City last summer as Pep Guardiola's men were on the lookout for a centre-back. They tempted Sevilla with an offer for €55m but failed in their attempts to lure him to England as Kounde has a staggering €90m release clause in his contract. Manchester United are said to be willing to pay €70m for the 2019/20 UEFA Europa League winner.