Probably a month prior to what’s happening right now, Manchester United found themselves to be in a defensive crisis with both centre-backs Bailly and Smalling out due to respective injuries. Since then, a lot has changed. Marcos Rojo has stepped up to be an integral player in this squad and arguably the biggest, biggest positive would be the return of Phil Jones.
The English centre-back has started more than seven games on a trot consecutively and has cemented his place in the starting line-up and also, surprising throwing off the doubt of injuries that have hovered over his head most of the times.
Currently, United have been handed a major boost. While Marcos Rojo and Jones have maintained fitness, they are bolstered by the return of both Smalling and Bailly. Also, Daley Blind has been in shape ready to fill up at any position the manager wants him to, always impressing as a utility player.
Keeping in mind that United now have 5 options for two very important positions, what should be the centre-back pairing heading into a heavy January period?
It is too early to derive any comparisons but the duo of Rojo and Jones is complementing each other superbly well. While Jones has shown terrific reading ability and command at the back, Rojo has been very physical with his approach to defending and it’s more like “no shit” attitude towards his work.
Statistically speaking, the duo has been outstanding. Phil Jones alone deserves magnificent applause. His 67% of average duels won shows his true ability with 62% successful tackle rate and 70% headed duels won. It shows that aerially and at the ground level, Jones nullifies almost everything coming his way.
Beside him is the physical Marcos Rojo who has emerged with sublime performances. He has managed to keep Mesut Ozil and Harry Kane, both renowned players of the league to be quite against him and also he’s been a brick wall at the back.
He has involved himself in 9 games this season and has cleared the ball over 86 times with a successful clearance rate of 81% and he has made 16 interceptions. Both the centre-backs have a successful passing accuracy of over 85% which means that Jose’s defence has another dimension that is the ability to play from the back.
It is not right at all to tinker with a winning formula and the outstanding performances from both Rojo and Jones gives no reason at all for anyone to start over them. Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo should carry on as United’s centre-back pairing.