Saturday, September 30, 2023

What Should Be Manchester United’s Centre-Back Pairing Next Season?

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Aakarsh Bommakanti
Was diving around lush green grass not so long ago but my keyboard is all I have now. An avid observer of detail in sports with a passion to make myself heard. Can find me playing on a field if not in front of my screen.

Manchester United have been one of busiest clubs in the transfer window recently. They have acquired the services of arguably one of the best managers in world football in Jose Mourinho and have also completed some insane signings in the transfer window. They have added Zlatan Ibrahimović and Henrikh Mkhitaryan to their attacking options that has now made the club one of the strongest squads in Europe. The manager has also brought in Eric Bailly for a defensive option and will seal the deal for Paul Pogba in the coming hours. However, with all the business said and done, United are still a bit weak at the back and may face some problems during crunch times in the season.

Louis van Gaal, the previous manager at Old Trafford used a range of centre-backs for his team having not been able to settle into a partnership for most of the season. But Mourinho is a manager who wants a settled defense and he will surely have an idea as to the duo that will start in the heart of the defense for United. So who should United go with as their center back pairing next season? Who will Mourinho trust to keep his team compact at the back come the start of the season? It is not easy for the manager to decide on two names when there are plenty who can be doing the job. The likes of Chris Smalling (who is back in training coming back from injury), Phil Jones (who reportedly has a future at the club), Daley Blind (the makeshift center back who is slowly turning into one), Eric Bertrand Bailly (the summer signing) and Patrick McNair (the youngster who may yet be on his way out of the club) are all fighting for two place in the team and the manager will have a tough time to pick a couple from those names.

From the outset, Chris Smalling, who was one of the best defenders in the league last season for at least the first half, seems to be a smart option for Mourinho. He has enough experience in the Premier League to adjust to Mourinho’s style of play and though his form in the previous season dipped considerably at the fag end, he is still a top class center back who can be an asset to Mourinho. However, finding his partner in crime will not be easy. Phil Jones, who is now back full fit is a decent option but the lack of game time under his belt will see the manager ponder over his place. McNair may be heading off on a loan spell to a smaller team but even if he stays, it is hard to see him take a regular place in the starting XI.

Daley Blind and Eric Bailly will have to fight it out for one place in the squad. The manager has given both the players equal chances in the pre-season games to prove themselves and the fact that he is still linked with a move for another defender in Leonardo Bonucci before the start of the season shows that Mourinho is not too happy with either option. However, Blind’s exploits in a similar place last season may give him a bit of an edge on the newcomer in Bailly and may start the season alongside Smalling. But when it comes to Mourinho, not much can be predicted and he may have been impressed enough to hand Bailly a place in the starting XI next season. Whoever Mourinho chooses to play come the first game against Bournemouth, he will make sure that he get the best out his team and his players in their natural positions. Who do you think should Manchester United use as their centre-back pairing next season?

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