The turnaround is complete! Manchester United have finished the season in third place after being nowhere near the position in December. It was a season with loads of ups and downs for the team. At times, a lack of creativity in midfield was evident. On other occasions, the goalkeepers could have performed better. But, one of the positives of this season was the visibly improved defence.
Manchester United took a big call and made a big money move for the english defender Harry Maguire at the start of the season. He was immediately drafted into the first XI and formed a great partnership with Victor Lindelof. The duo proved to be effective in the course of the season and were Solskjaer’s first choice centre backs. Aaron Wan-Bissaka was signed from crystal palace to fill the right back position. His perfectly timed tackles truly justified his nickname “spider”. Luke Shaw was the regular left back for the team. Competition from academy product Brandon Williams certainly brought out the best out of Shaw. This back four did take their time to start clicking together, but the manager’s trust and persistence reaped its rewards as Manchester United finished the season with the most number of clean sheets in Europe.
Harry Maguire, in particular, had to face a fair amount of criticism for some of his early performances for the club. Later in the season, he was named the club captain. This added to the already existing pressure of living up to his price tag. But the defender took all of it in his stride and continued to improve throughout the course of the season. Wan-Bissaka finished the season with most succesful tackles in the league. His timely interceptions helped the team in man instances. Victor Lindelof, was not dribbled past even once the entire season. The iceman looked as composed as ever and put in some sturdy performances. Shaw was a force to reckon with in that left back position. His well-timed runs caused problems in the opponent’s half and his improved fitness made sure that he executed solid recovery runs as well.
Manchester United finished third in the league in terms of goals conceded. There were a few individual errors due to lapse in concentration which could have been avoided. But, this is a very solid foundation for the team to build on. The defense ensured that the attackers were not under constant pressure of scoring three or four goals to see a match out. A strong defense is surely the first step to build a title winning team.