It’s all getting a bit boring now, in fact in many ways it’s worse than the Louis van Gaal era in terms of predictability. United turn up, they dismantle a team, they go home, Marcus Rashford destroys a hapless right-back before being subbed for Anthony Martial who devours what’s left of the said right back’s carcass.
Then for a small semblance of variety a few days later, Martial will destroy a right back before being subbed for Rashford who’ll remove whatever long term plans the poor defender had of ever being able to look himself in the mirror again. Oh and Romelu Lukaku will score, Henrikh Mkhitaryan will assist and we’ll all be ‘surprised’ that Phil Jones hasn’t done something completely stupid. In terms of consistency United have honed it down to a fine art, so much so that a 4-0 scoreline which was once as rare as a Marouane Fellaini goal, is now about as common as a Marouane Fellaini goal, which is of course no longer a rarity.
While messrs Anthony and Marcus may be leaving banana skins in the changing rooms in front of each other’s kit, there’s very little to debate in terms of who will start for United for most games. David De Gea will naturally be in goal, Tony Valencia more often than not will be right back, while if he’s fit, usually Eric Bailly will be accompanied by the aforementioned Jones, in midfield, Nemanja Matic has gone from a Chelsea reject- who wasn’t actually a reject, being a mainstay of their side for his entire time at Stamford Bridge- to a player who simply cannot be rested for any game that holds even the slimmest possibility of giving United a test. Paul Pogba will undoubtedly return to the side once he’s fit, while in the meantime the Reds’ new goal machine has no so much as silenced his critics as chested them into the nearest bin, Juan Mata regularly reminds us why he’s arguably the most talented player on the pitch, while Mkhi dishes out assists the same way Paul Merson dishes out garbage each week. while Romelu Lukaku scores whether he’s having a good game or a bad one and will probably end the season with more goals than Owen Hargreaves managed games for the Reds. Martial or Rashford seems to be the only debate left in town. Except of course, one…
United’s left back position is well and truly up for grabs with no less than four players vying for the one spot in Mourinho’s team which doesn’t appear to have been nailed down. So who are the options and which one is best?
Starting the last three league games captaining the side, being part of a team that hasn’t conceded a league goal once on his watch, won every game and scored 10 hasn’t so much placed Young at the top of the left-back pile as catapulted him there, in Europe he’s also shone and is now undoubtedly as close to a first choice LB as the club have. The only downside to Young is at 32 he’s obviously not a long-term option, plus you have to wonder just how many times that ONE TRICK he has to con a defender into thinking he’s about to cross with his left, before turning inside on to his right will keep working, although to be fair it’s served him well for over a decade so I suppose it’s golden. Not being a natural defender or left footed does count against him and in the recent game versus Crystal Palace there were times when Andros Townsend left him for dead which doesn’t bode well when he faces someone that’s actually very good at football. 6.5/10
When it comes to reading the game, there’s few better, when it comes to picking out a pass, at times, there’s few better, when it comes to looking pretty, there’s few better, unfortunately when it comes to being a bit too slow and small for the pace of the Premier League there’s also few better, if that makes any sort of sense. Blind can ‘do a job’ at left back but he’s hardly the sort of option that fills you with confidence and like Young could and does struggle against talented right wingers. A bit like Young, Blind is something of a utility man and is the perfect squad player being able to operate in the centre of defence, midfield or at left-back, but he’s the type of defender you call upon when you’re up against the West Hams of this world not the Manchester Citys. 6/10
There’s a dartboard in my house with a picture of Hector Moreno on it, okay so that’s not true as it would be quite simply mental, but the level of contempt I hold the PSV Eindhoven in can not be understated after he completely derailed the career of United’s then-most in-form player with a reckless challenge that should have resulted in a red card and a beating from Rui Faria. Shaw has never been the same player since that awful night in Holland, but there’s still a glimmer of hope for the former Southampton man. At 22, time is on his side and in terms of natural talent he’s easily the most gifted option at Mourinho’s disposal, the problem is, as you may have noticed, fitness. He’s spent more time on the treatment table than Garth Crooks spends at the bar and the injury last season after eight minutes against Swansea couldn’t have come at a worse time. Mourinho may run out of patience with Shaw before he’s given the chance at redemption, if that hasn’t happened already, but if the left back can get back to full fitness, maybe, just maybe he could be the player he was before that fateful night two years ago. 8/10 [if fit]
Other than perhaps Jesse Lingard, there’s few players that can divide opinion at Old Trafford more than the Italian international – especially since it no longer became fashionable to hate Marouane. Darmian has the ability to be a world class full back but he’s let down badly by an over-reliance on his right foot – which is completely understandable given that he’s right-footed and not Denis Irwin. It’s easy to forget just how good Darmian can be, even at left back we’ve seen signs – Europa League final anyone -but he’s simply not reliable enough to convince he’s the man who should be the clubs definitive left back. There’s still a part of me that feels we may end up finishing the season with Darmian as United’s first choice left-back, but that could be the same part of me that felt Simon Davies was the most talented member of the Class of 92, or that Kiko Macheda was destined to become a United great…. 7/10
In the short-term it looks like Ashley Young may be the preferred choice, but he should be just keeping it warm until the verdict on Shaw comes in and if it’s not good, then expect Mourinho to turn to Darmian towards the end of the season. That’s my theory anyway, feel free to share yours below: