It’s easy to point fingers. We all know it, we’ve all done it and we’ve all seen it. From Sunday League level all the way up as far as the professional game. When a goal is conceded, somebody gets the blame. Some are a bit more vocal with their appointment of the blame where as there are still a few remaining ‘positive’ players who will choose to move on with the game.
It’s easy to look at your centre back or right back and say ‘you should have got to that’ or tell your goalkeeper he should have done better.
United’s back four, in particular, have come under scrutiny in the last couple of years because of the transitional period that they are in. From having the Neville/Ferdinand/Vidic/Evra line that was absolutely brilliant for the years they played together, along with the additions of Brown, O’Shea and Co when called upon, we are now depending on an unsettled, injury prone back four.
Smalling, Evans, Jones and Rojo all have a case to be starting centre half, along with Blackett and McNair. Then you have Rafael and Luke Shaw as two out and out full backs competing with Valencia and Daley Blind for their positions.
All the finger pointing and accusations of inadequacy in the team may be unjust for one simple reason; the game has evolved beyond defending.
Look at the best teams in Europe at this moment, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Juventus.
The latter play with three centre backs and no wide defenders, whereas the other three play with two attacking full backs and two defensive midfielders to cover them.
It’s an attacker’s game again now. Long before my time, the game was played with a ‘you score, we score’ mentality and teams just went out to win by as much as possible. Then, the defensive revolution took over and teams suddenly became specialists in sneaking a 1-0.
Few would notice that Manchester United have kept as many clean sheets in the Premier League this season as Manchester City have. (2)
The game has re-evolved and attack has become the best form of defence again. It’s no coincidence that there are goal records being broken somewhere every week, most recently the record for goals on a Champions League night featuring 8 games.
Manchester City and Chelsea are considered the defensive standard bearers in the League but both have a goal:game ratio of 1:1 for goals conceded.
On the continent, of the major teams, only Barcelona have completely shut out the opposition with 8 clean sheets in the league from 8 games.
It’s time to stop pointing fingers at the defenders and to start giving the attack a bit more of a boost. Everyone knows Manchester United have the players to damage any team but we just need to up the intensity of the attacking and put the ball in the net more.
The more you attack, the less you need to defend. Between 2004 and 2009, the premier league champions didn’t concede more than 27 goals. Since the 2009/10 campaign, the lowest a league winner has conceded has been 29. The 43 goals conceded by Manchester United in the 2012/13 season highlights how the game has turned around.
The old chant of ‘1-0 to the Arsenal’ from the George Graham days which was later adopted by Chelsea in Jose Mourinho’s first tenure are well and truly behind us. Even a team set up as defensively as Chelsea were involved in a 6-3 thriller with Everton earlier in the season.
Have a look for yourself, study some of the European results and you’ll see that attack is back.
It’s time to lighten up on our defenders. Allow them time to gel, get to know each other better, develop an understanding of each other’s play and they will play well together. It’s easy to forget that there is a lot of new faces, both transfers and academy players, in our defence. That’s not to say, United will re-smash the record of 1,311 minutes without conceding a league goal but they won’t allow chances such as the one that Saido Berahino scored from in the 2-2 draw at the Hawthorns.
It’s an attacker’s game again so show some patience with your defenders.