As of last weekend, Manchester United moved up to third in the Premier League’s defensive rankings – ahead of local rivals and reigning champions Manchester City.
Which begs the question – are Manchester United the third most ‘solid’ team in the Premier League?
Well, not at all. In fact, Louis van Gaal’s team rank third in the number of defensive errors made this season. An ever-changing back line has hardly looked comfortable as a unit, making countless misplaced passes and unnecessary fouls. Yet, thanks to David de Gea‘s heroics, they have managed to to achieve a better defensive record than 17 Premier League teams this term.
Despite only conceding just 21 goals this season, any Man United fan (or any football fan in general for that matter) would tell you that United’s side is bereft of any notable defensive quality.
The bid for Valencia’s Nicholas Otamendi, a £28m offer that was turned down, suggests Van Gaal is very much aware of the defensive frailties within his squad.
Otamendi is a good example of somebody who is streets ahead of the majority of United’s current defensive options but not necessarily that well known. But why exactly would van Gaal want to shell out £28m for a centre back who has spent a large portion of his career playing in the notoriously sleepy Primera Liga in Portugal?
The Argentine has proven to be more than competent in the Champions League, where he seamlessly dealt with Zlatan Ibrahimovic during last season’s tie with PSG. Domestically, he has been a dominating figure in La Liga; with 18 appearances under his belt already this season, Otamendi has been a vital component to a Valencia side that finds themselves only two points behind last years La Liga winners Athletico Madrid.
Those who watch Otamendi on a regular basis are quick to sing his praises. The Peoples Person spoke to Valencia’s official live blogger Andrew Gaffney for his views on the Argentinian defender: “I think he’s a rough diamond. A very classy, no nonsense defender that improves game on game. He’s also dominant in the air for an average-sized centre-back.
“He’s comfortable at playing out from the back to, is a major threat at set pieces and his headers are similar in style to those of Puyol.
“He does his job effortlessly and the Valencia back line is vulnerable when he doesn’t play. He’ll develop into a real leader.
“He also comes across as a very humble person. There’s no ego there. Pure grit, hard work and dedication. He only wants to perform well.”
Having spent four years at Porto, Otamendi isn’t really used to losing matches very often. Watch him play and that ‘win-at-all-costs’ mentality becomes evident within minutes.
Defensively, his fantastic positional sense allows him to make interception after interception. Countless numbers of players are dubbed as ‘natural goalscorers’, Otamendi is a ‘natural interceptor’. In his debut La Liga season, the Argentine made more interceptions (57) than Gerard Pique (26), Sergio Ramos (46), Pepe (23) and Diego Godin (56). Intercepting passes for Otamendi probably gives him more satisfaction than scoring goals. He just loves it.
Having a player like Otamendi in the Man United side would give Van Gaal more confidence in his defence creating a platform for the team to go and dominate games, something he currently craves.