7th December 2011, that dreadful day where not only were we outplayed by FC Basel in a 2-1 result but we also lost our defender and captain Nemanja Vidic to an injury that kept him out for the rest of the season.
Even though we finished a close second last season losing only to goal difference, the commanding presence of the giant Serb was missed which saw the team concede vital goals at the end of the season. If not for our injury hit back four many believe we would be already basking in the glory of clinching the clubs 20th Premier League title. Sadly,it was not to be.
The last couple of seasons we have seen countless injuries to our back four notably Rio Ferdinand's back problem and Nemanja Vidic's knee injury which kept them out for lengthy spells. Despite such vital players being lost to injuries,Sir Alex has masterfully structured makeshift defences by deploying midfielders to defence notably Micheal Carrick, Ryan Giggs and Antonio Valencia who over the couple of seasons have played quite comfortably in those positions.
Sir Alex might have pulled off many masterstrokes by winning games with his makeshift defences but isn't Sir Alex losing vital players in midfield by doing so? Our first game against Everton was an example where Carrick was deployed as a centre back while Antonio Valencia played at right back.
In my opinion Carrick woud have been a better option in central midfield with his crisp passing and ball retention and Antonio Valencia would have with no doubt flourished in his more natural position. Against Everton, two yellow cards early in the game to both Scholes and Nani meant that they had to be more cautious and hence couldn't command the game as they normally would have.If Carrick and Valencia were to play in those positions that probably wouldn't have happened. Also with the lack of centre back cover, Sir Alex should have given a defender from the reserve team a run out who would have been more naturally adapted to the position? Carrick might have played as a makeshift centre back but that doesn't mean he can handle the position the way a real centre back does.The way Felliani overpowered Carrick was a proof of that.
Right after the Everton game, Manchester United were linked with the loan signing of Philippe Mexes to ease the defensive worries. Even if Sir Alex does consider it, it wouldn't be a wise choice.Mexes might fill the void now but when all our defenders return than we would end up having too many first team defenders in the centre back position. We have Phil Jones,Chris Smallings and Jhonny Evans who are very talented centre backs so there won't a need for more defensive signings.Hopefully Evans returns for the Fulham game to partner Vidic and all our worries will be temporarily gone. Our biggest boost is the return of our captain Nemanja Vidic,so hope he remains fit for the rest of the season.I'm looking forward to see the Ferdinand and Vidic partnership, which is our strongest defensive pairing so hopefully they link up sooner rather than later.
Also our latest signing Alexander Buttner appears to be a very capable player to give Evra a run for his money at left-back. All in all our defensive line up looks solid, and when injuries ease I believe will certainly be the foundation we need to clinch our 20th Premier League title.
Can United limit the damage until their key defenders return?
image: © nasmac