Former Manchester United defender Danny Higginbotham believes the club’s biggest problem is their lack of consistency in defence.
The decision to pair Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof in defence for just the second time ever against Brighton and Hove Albion reaped terrible results, with Man United going in at half time 3-1 down following 45 minutes of complete chaos at the back.
Jose Mourinho had to flit between a number of partnerships at the back last season given Chris Smalling was the only defender to remain free of injury throughout the campaign.
Speaking earlier this week, Higginbotham noted that United would keep struggling if the inconsistency in personnel at the back continued.
“I think the problem they have is that in [Eric] Bailly and [Victor] Lindelof, they have no consistency,” he said.
“We have seen [Chris] Smalling play, we have seen [Phil] Jones play and [Nemanja] Matic play at centre-half and there is no consistent partnership.
“You look at any successful team, whether it be domestic or international, it’s built around a rock-solid centre-back partnership.
“Mourinho, because he hasn’t got consistent performing centre-backs he trusts, the players in front who want to go forward and express themselves have an extra defensive responsibility on their shoulders, so they are playing 10-15 yards deeper than they want to.
“That has a huge knock-on effect on Manchester United going forward.”
A staple of any Jose Mourinho team has always been a stable defensive partnership: two ferocious, tall, powerful figures acting as the spine of the team, maintaining the right shape and physically dominating the opponent. The very essence of Mourinho’s style.
At Chelsea he had Ricardo Carvalho and John Terry. At Inter Milan he had Samuel and Lucio. At Real Madrid it was Pepe and Sergio Ramos. His second spell at Chelsea once again included Terry accompanied by Gary Cahill.
At United, however, it is anyone’s guess who plays at centre back next week.