United have started with the same back four in their opening three competitive fixtures this season of Matteo Darmian, Chris Smalling, Daley Blind and Luke Shaw and Smalling believes that the chemistry built from having a consistent back four is priceless.
At times last season, United had to make do with a host of changes in their full back and centre-back positions with the likes of Antonio Valencia playing right-back in order to fill a void. However, it now feels like United are starting to settle in at the back and are growing from strength to strength.
Speaking about United’s defence, Smalling said: “Last season, there were that many changes, it was hard to get a good run – even though I still don’t think we conceded that many goals in the second half of the season.
“But that togetherness and that work ethic is showing on the pitch now because we are not letting that many chances in.”
When asked about Darmian, Smalling added: “He is terrific; in any one-v-one situation he backs himself and he gets forward as well with some useful crosses.”
One of United’s main problems was their away form last season and a lot of that stems from issues at the back. They need to be a lot more defensively resilient in both the Champions League and Premier League this season at home and most importantly, away from home.
Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Tyler Blackett and Paddy McNair all saw significant game time last season and, in truth, that’s not an ideal scenario. Consistency breeds reliability and that in turn helps to push a team towards becoming title challengers, something United want to be this season.
If United can play the same back four in most of their games and avoid any significant injuries, they will be there or thereabouts next year when the league is drawing to a close.