Manchester United coupled with the art of defending has been a complete travesty this season. It all stems from the failure to sign a new centre-back over the summer (but that’s something to discuss another day).
From the injury-prone Phil Jones to a Chris Smalling, while sending out two top talents in the form of Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Axel Tuanzebe out on loan, the self-proclaimed Special One has made some bizarre decisions, to say the least… Then you have Victor Lindelof, who has improved recently but I still doubt whether he’ll be good enough to play week-in-week-out for the Old Trafford club.
Ironically, it looks as though Mourinho has found relief in a pair who have been used sparingly this campaign – although they were the base of a debut season in which the United manager scooped two trophies; Eric Bailly and Marcos Rojo. The pair were back in the line-up against Arsenal, and to say they impressed is an understatement.
Let’s start with the latter. Rojo hadn’t played at all this season as he continues to work his way back from injury. Over the summer, he looked pretty good for his native Argentina at the World Cup, but he has spent far too much time on the treatment table since.
Then you have Bailly, who has been massively out-of-favour since making some schoolboy errors early on in the season. Yes, the mistakes were bad, but it’s frustrating to see the Ivorian completely exiled for so long; particularly when you’ve got the likes of Nemanja Matic making error-after-error, yet it going largely unpunished.
But, that is all in the past and Mourinho must put stubbornness to one side and put his trust in the duo that has served him well in the past.
I always think that, first and foremost, it’s down to how they play as a pair. In a Mourinho team, you’re going to have to put your body on the line for the cause. There is no getting away from that. These two guys will fling themselves in front of anything to protect David de Gea’s goal. Their attitude in that regard can never come into question.
It’s the perfect blend of Bailly’s front footed aggression coupled with Rojo’s toughness and cynical side. Sure, on another day he could have seen red for that sliding tackle in Arsenal’s penalty area as the first half was winding down, but Mourinho has moaned to the media about having a lack of ‘dog’ within the squad. The Argentine has just sent a stern message to his manager.
Now, it’s time to hope and pray that these guys can keep themselves fit and go on a real run as the partnership. With the young Diogo Dalot and Luke Shaw on either flank, this could well be the perfect back four in the modern-day Premier League.
If I were to have one criticism, it’d be the fact that they lack composure. So often against Arsenal, they’d win back the ball and then just hoof it upfield aimlessly. Perhaps as they get back into the swing of regular football, they’ll be more confident in possession, but only time will tell.
Your move, Mourinho…