Date: 3rd August 2011 at 2:11pm
Written by:
Rafael and Tevez

"Don't call me Fabio!"

With all the attention going to our midfield this summer, a position which has the potential to become a problem area for United next season has been somewhat overlooked.

Since losing stalwarts Gary Neville, John O’Shea and Wes Brown there is a clear discrepancy in United’s squad – at full-back. Apart from Patrice Evra and the Da Silva twins, there are no other natural full-backs at the club. Sir Alex has allowed promising youngster Ritchie De Laet to go on loan to newly promoted Norwich City which has left us short of numbers at right and left-back.

After the departures of Brown, Neville and O’Shea, United have signed one defender in Phil Jones while they did come close to the capture of French youngster Raphael Varane but to be pipped at the last moment by Real Madrid. The gaffer has been quoted this summer as saying that if he cannot get the players he wants, he will not be acquiring new players for the sake of it. This appears to be the case in his defensive conundrum.

It won’t be easy for Sir Alex to give a youth a chance as the reserve team and Youth Cup-winning side weren’t really based on a solid defensive foundation and the only to excel were attacking players including Paul Pogba, Ravel Morrison and Ryan Tunicliffe. Oliver Gill had developed well and been tipped for a first-team chance this term but he’s chosen to go to University. There is also a case for Wes Brown’s younger brother Reece, however his form hasn’t been consistent enough to warrant a crack at the first team.

United fans will remember the defensive crisis that many claim cost us the title in 2010 which led to Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher playing as centre-halves during back-to-back losses against Fulham and Aston Villa. With Rafael and Fabio susceptible to the odd injury as they fly into challenges, it would be wise of the boss to bring in some cover.

Saying that, it appears he has other ideas. During pre-season, the manager has utilised Chris Smalling at right-back, Jonny Evans at left-back and Phil Jones has been tried all across the back-four. Smalling and Jones have looked pretty comfortable in these new positions whereas Evans seems out of his depth. The Northern Ireland international did play on the left on a couple of occasions last season but his inability to get up and down the flank to support attacking play, cross the ball into the box and beat a man meant the left-sided midfielder was often isolated. It seems he’s mainly deployed as cover because he is left-footed.

Smalling surprised many during his debut season last year and there were few less exciting views than that of┬áthe lanky-Londoner galloping down the pitch, starting counter-attacks and helping create scoring chances for the reds. He has shown his ability to play on the right and will, no doubt, do well there next season. Jones is seen as the new O’Shea as he is very much the utility man and he can fill in every defensive position, including the holding midfield role and, if pre-season is anything to go by, he will also have a brilliant first season at Old Trafford. This time last year, right-back was probably our strongest position with Neville, Rafael, Brown, O’Shea and Fabio having stints there during the season but with three of those five leaving, it will be interesting to see how we cope.

A lot of United fans believed we should’ve kept O’Shea with his versatility but, as we’ve found out on numerous occasions, Fergie knows best.

Follow Saad on Twitter- Twitter: @saadnoor


8 responses to “How Do You Solve A Problem Like Full-back?”

  1. marky boy says:

    fergie should snatch enrique from newcastle.Raphael is brainless,costantly diving into make stupid tackles.

  2. jose says:

    I think you are blowing this a little out of proportion, How many games did Brown and Nevelle play last season at full back between them, Not many. And O’Shea didn’t play all that much either. With Park and Valencia proving that they can cover the full-back positions and Fletcher another option, I wouldn’t get overly worried about it. Anderson is always an option for left-back also. and Giggs has played there before also. We have a very versatile squad and if needed after a while De Laet can be recalled if necessary.

  3. troutalan says:

    Johnny Evans played left full a few times last
    year and looked more comfortable than center back. Also Jones has fitted both full back berths and could be an alternative.

  4. Steve says:

    Noticed this myself. I’d feel a lot happier if O’Shea hadn’t been sold if I’m honest. He was never the star, but was always there to cover injuries. Notice that pretty much the only time he’s been injured co-incided with our defensive crisis in 2009/2010.

    I don’t think that a new signing would neccesarily be the right option though. A promising youngster could hinder the development of the Da Silva twins and an established fullback/utility man would be a like-for-like replacement for O’Shea.

    We’ve got five centre backs and three fullbacks, which is fine if defensive players don’t start getting injured at the same time like 2009/2010. Rio is always a doubt, and others have been injured in the past too. Let’s just hope that doesn’t happen, or we’ll end up with Fletcher and Carrick working on their partnership again…

  5. Tanner says:

    I wouldnt call Rafael, Fabio, Jones and Smalling a cause for concern – seen all play well at RB, with the Da Silva twins even bringing some experience into the mixer this season. Our only problem is which one to play there!!

    PS – wish we hadnt sold O’Shea, united through and through and great professional.

  6. Jonathan says:

    We should be fine. Evra’s health record is amazing so it should generally leave the twins to cover RB. Jones was brought in as our new utlity man and should cover FB fine when needed. I’m not too convinced about Ando or even Giggs covering FB, but one midfielder who I believe could do it exceptionally well is Valencia. I would have no worries if he had to cover RB whatsoever.

  7. MajManUnited says:

    I agree. This point is blown out of proportion. Plus, Smalling’s touch is absolutely phenomenal and he is another person who could play in the full-back position.

  8. Mark says:

    I think John O’Shea was allowed to leave for the same reasons we allowed Phil Neville to leave. Ferguson probably felt he couldn’t keep using O’Shea as a back up player anymore. He is 30 going on 31 and needs to be playing every week now. Also he is likely to be made captain of Sunderland.

    We are a little light at full back and very strong at centre back. However I think Ferguson will use Jones at right back and Evans at left back when needed. This will allow them to get a good number of games as well.