Premier League 2018-19: It's time for Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof to stand up
Manchester United host Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on Saturday in Gameweek 13 of the Premier League. The hosts have a very good chance of getting their campaign back on track against Roy Hodgson's struggling side. United are in no paradise either, standing a lowly eighth in the table, far from the 'top 4' where they aspire to be.
The most surprising fact of United's campaign this year is that they have maintained just the one clean sheet. They have conceded goals in every game that they have played except the one against Burnley. Their defence has been torn apart by strikers from opposition teams and manager Jose Mourinho has been left rueing missed opportunities.
Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof, who guard the heart of United's defence, must take accountability for it. The best goalkeeper in the world in David de Gea, the Spaniard can only do so much to ward off attacks from all corners. Both Smalling and Lindelof have been seen leaving their markers and giving open spaces to opposition players in front of goal. There has been no sustained pressure nor has there been any authoritative or confident forward play.
The inability of old warhorse Ashley Young and young turk Luke Shaw to defend has been of no help either. Young has lost his speed and is just counting his days at Old Trafford and while Shaw, a good prospect, is more often than not seen going way too forward to support Anthony Martial on the left-hand side.
The onus of the blame of United's shambolic defense has to, therefore, go to Smalling and Lindelof, who have manned the central defenders' posts in every game since Eric Bailly was taken off by Mourinho against Newcastle United.
The duo has to put their hand on their hearts and give their all in defending for Manchester United. Agreed that they are not the most technically gifted defenders, but they need to stand up and be counted upon if United are to have any chance of reviving their disastrous campaign.
Earlier I had written about how Mourinho has very few options on the bench for the central defender's role at Old Trafford here and the problem seems to be compounded all the more as Bailly has lost his trust and Phil Jones is seen as being impotent. That leaves just Marcos Rojo, who can be seen to be given a chance if either Smalling or Lindelof fail to deliver the goods.
United need to go for fresh and more compact central defenders in the January transfer window but till then, Smalling and Lindelof have to man the fort and give the fans something to cheer about.