Is Manchester United's current centre-back partnership the most feared in the Premier League?
- Since Ferdinand and Vidic retired, United haven't looked this solid at the back.
- Other clubs bear an unsettled look at the centre of defence..
Manchester United are on a high. They are unbeaten in their last eleven games across all competitions and have maintained a clean sheet in nine of them. The last half of the statistic mentioned in the last sentence is due to the rise in the form of their defenders in general and centre-backs in particular.
We mention centre-backs in particular because the Red Devils' manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had deployed various players in fullback positions over those last eleven games, which included Brandon Williams, Luke Shaw, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and others due to injuries in the squad but the centre-back partnership was formed mostly between Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof.
Eric Bailly had come in after he recovered from injury but those positions were mainly held by Maguire and Lindelof. The England international, who was signed by Solskjaer from Leicester City in the summer, has been brilliant in taking up the reins of the team and displayed immensely positive leadership skills whenever he had been given the armband. He is commanding and can remain calm under pressure.
Maguire is a good passer of the ball too and he can set up teammates who are looking for goals. The 27-year-old's technical proficiency has never been doubted and although he was a bit slow when he first arrived in Old Trafford, he is at the peak of his form now.
The Englishman has been a part of eight clean sheets in the Premier League this season, two in the Capital One Cup, five in the Europa League and one in the FA Cup, all in all sixteen in total. His attacking returns too aren't bad, with two goals, one each in the Premier League and the FA Cup. His presence has invigorated those around him and Solskjaer is mightily impressed.
Maguire's centre back partner Victor Lindelof arrived in Manchester United in the summer of 2017 for around £30million from the Portuguese club Benfica. He was touted by former manager Jose Mourinho to be a swift and marauding defender who is a good decision maker. However, Lindelof was prone to making mistakes early on in his career at Old Trafford and it is only recently that he has become confident in his approach.
The Sweden international has partnered well with Maguire in recent times and complemented him perfectly. Lindelof too can get forward and attack the opposition goal. Although he has only one goal to his name, he has displayed his attacking credentials for Sweden in the European Championships and the UEFA Nations League.
Lindelof has had a more than average season so far keeping aside occasional oversights. In the Premier League, he has a 0.9 tackle rating per game along with a 0.6 interception rating and a 3.5 clearance rating. He has been a part of seven clean sheets in the Premier League, one in the Europa League, one in the Capital One Cup and four in the FA Cup, all in all thirteen in total.
Apart from Maguire and Lindelof, United also possess the services of Phil Jones, Eric Bailly and the young Axel Tuanzebe, who are all competent enough to step into the first team whenever required. Bailly, in particular, has been mightily impressive whenever he has played.
Many will argue Liverpool's defence is the best in the Premier League. However, theirs is a collective defensive effort which also involves fullbacks Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold along with central defender Virgil van Dijk. If we talk about centre-backs in particular, Liverpool have not really found the ideal partner for van Dijk this season. Manchester City and Tottenham's defence too look unsettled. Therefore, we rest our case for Maguire and Lindelof being the most feared central defenders in the Premier League.
Published 21 Mar 2020, 14:00 IST