There has been a lot of transfer speculation around our defence, however is our defence already complete? I feel as if Marcos Rojo and Chris Smalling can fit the shoes of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand who in my eyes are the best defensive partnership that I have seen at Manchester United.
Rojo 25, the Argentine defender who joined Manchester United for £16 million has shown a lot of potential, even though he hasn’t been his best he has shown signs that he can handle the physicality and the speed in which the Premier League throws at him. His most memorable performance for me would be against Cambridge United in the FA Cup. In that game he was ruthless going into challenges and not being scared to take the ball forward. We have seen what Rojo brings onto the table after some great performances in the World Cup as he played as a left back. Even though Rojo played as a left back in the World Cup I feel as if his role at United is as a centre back and he shows how he applies himself in games and he has the qualities of a United defender such as he is committed to winning the ball and he has the physical strength to take the ball of opponents.
However I feel his main attribute is to take the ball forward he uses his physicality to barge through players and has a pace, he can also whip a good ball, which is something he did well in the World Cup. We have seen this season with the likes of Phil Jones and Jonny Evans where they are not confident with the ball and in general giving away the ball has cost us this season such as the FA Cup and the Capital One Cup.
Smalling 25, has shown a lot of promise this season; he has been our best defender of the season by far. I’ve always had doubt on the future of Smalling because under Sir Alex Ferguson we always saw him playing centre back and left back and I personally was unsure if he was cut out for United, as he was inconsistent. Even in the first half of the season I thought Smalling was the main cause of our defensive problems regarding his marking and overall defensive positioning.
It is in the second half of the season that we saw the best part of Smalling and what he offers to our defence, I’ve realised that he is an integral part to our defence as he brings leadership to the defence and has got the trust of Louis van Gaal as we have seen him captain the side against Arsenal in Wayne Rooney’s absence. The confidence that Smalling has shown this season has been remarkable he has made 25 appearances and has scored four goals which shows us how Smalling brings all the qualities onto the pitch, like Rojo he is not scared to take the ball forward and the highlight of the season for me would be how he would just run with the ball taking on defenders. Smalling has also been disciplined this season as he has just picked up two yellow cards and one red card in the Premier League.
I think that Smalling and Rojo are the replacement that we have been looking for, they are still young and need time to develop; this season has been plagued with injuries for players and has not been easy but the way in which Smalling and Rojo and persevered and applied themselves onto the pitch shows me the determination they have to win trophies and become world-class defenders.
Van Gaal has shown faith in Smalling and Rojo, however Rojo has faced many injures this season and has conceded six yellow cards in his 22 appearances however I feel with a good run of games his fitness will improve and under Van Gaal’s management his discipline will improve. Rojo and Smalling are the perfect replacement and have the qualities to be great centre backs and I’m sure we will see them step up their game even more as we are seeing the youth coming in such as Tyler Blackett and Paddy McNair.
This season we have conceded 43 goals in 38 matches in the Premier League, which averages to 1.13 a match; our defence conceded the fourth lowest amount of goals for the season, which shows to me that we just need players to develop. There are flaws in the defence, which I think, can be fixed and therefore I do not feel the need that Van Gaal needs to spend money on star-studded names on the defence. There are back ups in defence such as Phil Jones 23, who had a poor start to the season and vastly improved towards the end of the season.
Overall I think the Rojo and Smalling should be at the heart of the defence, they compliment each other well as they have a similar playing style. Both enjoy having the ball at their feet and are not afraid to go into a challenge. Both defenders are young and still have time to develop and under the management of Van Gaal they will become great defenders, with Rojo getting Premier League experience under his belt and Smalling signing a new contract until 2019. I feel as if they are two crucial defenders for United.
This article was researched and written by Mitesh Sagar. You can follow him on Twitter.