Dimitar Berbatov has stressed that Manchester United’s defensive qualities will ultimately be what defines their position in the Premier League table next season.
No team claimed more clean sheets than Man United last season, with David de Gea enjoying a fantastic season on route to claiming the ‘Golden Glove’ award for the first time.
But you could say they relied on the superb Spaniard too much: United conceded more shots per game last season than any other top six side.
Speaking ahead of United’s Premier League opener against Leicester City, Berbatov insisted that seeing his former side’s defence improve was the most important thing when it came to challenging Manchester City last season.
“United need to get back to being champions again, to do this you need to do one thing, and one thing only, you need to win,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how many goals you score; one goal is enough if you don’t let one in your net.”
“It’s getting more difficult as in the League, teams are getting stronger. Everybody wants to be the team that people say, ‘They play great football,’ but at my time at the club and how we used to do things, there aren’t that many changes.
“You still pass the ball and you move, it’s not difficult, and now United have talented players in the team and can improve on being runners up.
“Mourinho is the best at this, you cannot question his ability with the silverware he’s won. When I go back to the training ground, players tell me how the team is well built and I can’t wait to see them as champions.”
Many supporters were keen to see their team’s attack evolve over this summer in a bid to bridge the gap with Man City’s attacking brilliance. It has, after all, become quite commonplace in the Ed Woodward era. But that was never going to be the Mourinho way.
To him, the surest way to attack a team and, most importantly, control a game is through a solid core. A proper spine. The 55-year-old didn’t have that last season, relying instead on De Gea and only being able to count on Chris Smalling as other more competent defenders dropped like flies with injury throughout the campaign.
With that in mind, you can see why his attention has been on securing Toby Alderweireld towards the latter stages of the transfer window.