Manchester United’s match against Real Betis yesterday evening may not have been an example of free flowing attacking football, but it did show how far the team have come under Erik ten Hag.
The Red Devils recorded their 21st clean sheet of the campaign, having managed just ten throughout the whole of last season.
And while United have had defensive struggles at certain points, the consistency over the course of Ten Hag’s short tenure has been remarkable.
The partnership of Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez has been a huge factor, with the pair forming an excellent bedrock at the heart of the backline.
Improvements in the games of Luke Shaw and Diogo Dalot have also been a factor, while Aaron Wan-Bissaka has been revived in the second half of the season.
Tyrell Malacia has also looked like shrewd business, having cost just £17m to sign from Feyenoord and often showing why his teammates call him ‘The Pitbull.’
Even much-maligned club captain Harry Maguire looked fairly assured yesterday, despite having had barely any gametime since the World Cup.
In terms of personnel, Casemiro might just be the most important piece of the puzzle, with his defensive nous and leadership qualities vital to the upturn in United’s performances.
Of course, Ten Hag will have to do without the Brazilian for the team’s next four domestic games, following his harsh red card against Southampon. But the Dutchman will surely be confident in his side’s ability to maintain their concentration during a difficult run.
United take on Fulham in the FA Cup quarterfinal on Sunday and will be hoping for another solid defensive display as they look to add to their trophy haul this season.
The club have already won the Carabao Cup having kept another clean sheet in the final against Newcastle United.
If Manchester United can finish the season with a clean sheet in another final or two, it will be a very successful campaign indeed.
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