As seems to be the case for every other position, Manchester United have spent a ridiculous amount of money on centre-backs in recent years but still look light in the position.
It’s been yet another tough season for United who will end the campaign without lifting a piece of silverware and might even miss out on qualifying for next year’s Champions League. A porous backline has been one of the biggest problems Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and then Ralf Rangnick have had to contend with.
Raphael Varane has provided an increase in quality but his time on the sidelines has proven costly, with United’s heaviest beatings coming when he has been unavailable. Yet more signings may have to be made in the position in the summer but, for now, United are stuck with what they’ve got. below, MEN Sports ranks United’s centre-backs from best to worst on current form.
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Excitement was justifiably highly when multiple Champions League-winner Varane arrived from Real Madrid in the summer and he has certainly brought that quality with him to Old Trafford. His importance of him to the side is already clear, too, with United losing just two league games in which he’s played compared to the six without him. Those six include a 4-2 defeat to Leicester, 5-0 to Liverpool, 4-1 at Watford and 4-1 against Manchester City.
That’s what makes his injury record concerning. Varane has missed 12 games due to injury and, as he’s always been prone to ailments, that will likely only increase as he gets older. Yet, he’s still United’s best defender by some distance.
2 – Victor Lindeloff
Many presumed Victor Lindelof would struggle for minutes following Varane’s arrival but, due to injuries, he has actually played more games than the new arrival. It’s been a good season for the Swede, too, who has looked his most composed and assured this year since arriving in 2017.
Lindelof is still liable to make the odd mistake or a weak challenge but he has quietly made himself pretty solid and his distribution has been impressive, with two assists to his name. He may be United’s underrated performer of the year.
3 – Harry Maguire
While Lindelof has taken steps forward, Harry Maguire has been going in the opposite direction. It’s been an awful season for the captain that has been riddled with costly errors and woeful positioning as he hit a new nadir when fans sarcastically cheered as he was substituted in the recent defeat to Atletico Madrid at Old Trafford.
It’s clear from Maguire’s performances for England – he was excellent at Euro 2020 – that a good defender is in there but be it pressure, fatigue or confidence, he isn’t showing up for United at present.
Eric Bailly has become somewhat of a forgotten man this season and has only managed to make seven appearances, with just 217 minutes of Premier League action to his name. It’s of little surprise that he has failed in the pecking order given his frequent unavailability due to injury and his inconsistent displays when on the pitch.
However, it’s hard to see the Ivorian going anywhere unless he wants to leave as he signed a new contract until 2024 less than a year ago.
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5 – Axel Tuanzebe
One defender who is a little closer to the exit door is Axel Tuanzebe, whose own contract expires in 2023. It’s been a tough season for the academy graduate as his loan return to Aston Villa didn’t go to plan and he has made just two appearances since switching to Napoli in January.
Tuanzebe is now 24 and hasn’t progressed to the extent that United would have liked so it seems unlikely that he will become a first-team regular at this stage. He’s at a crossroads and will have to decide what he wants to do with his career in the summer.
Phil Jones’ horrid time of it over the years has been well documented, as a series of terrible luck saw him sidelined for the majority of the last half-decade and go over two years without a competitive match. He had a good showing on his return to action against Wolves in January but has made just one more appearance since then. A move in the summer to resurrect his career seems the best course of action.
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