There cannot be no question that United leaking seven goals in three games so far this season is pure coincidence. It’s a problem and a serious one at that. Disregarding the brilliance of Berbatov netting a hat-trick to finally beat Liverpool the United defence needs some tuning up if they want to offer a title challenge to the current juggernaut of Chelsea. The ever reliable tabloid gossip has been suggesting that Carlos Queiroz is coming back to the United for the third time. If true, there can be no sweeter news to United fans. Despite the way his tenure as Portugal manager ended and the embarrassing lack of goals the side produced Queiroz remains one of the best defensive coaches around.
When Ferguson last had Queiroz at his side United went on to win a league and European Cup double. Victories based on a ruthless defence. Worryingly for fans, all of the players who formed that back five remain at the club. It must be said that Brown and Ferdinand have had long term injury problems and the replacements of O’Shea and Evans remain unconvincing against the best but the deterioration in efficiency is obvious.
O’Shea has performed admirably in the RB role for several years until the end of last season. His current form is worrying but he remains a quality defender despite this slump. Evans on the other hand has been entirely inadequate for a title-challenging side. Bullied into numerous mistakes by Zamora and several times was badly caught out by the out-of-form Torres. The youngster has bags of potential and could still become a “Rolls-Royce” Centre Back but this season he isn’t good enough for United if they want to win serious trophies.
Secondly the gulf between the midfield and back four against Liverpool was huge at times. Fletcher is a terrier but his all-round game offers far more than just energy and therefore he requires freedom to attack while Giggs is hardly the defensive shield needed. The less said about Scholes’ tackling the better.
Queiroz had some unorthodox techniques for training the United backline but they worked. Gary Neville recalls being ambushed around Carrington, United’s training ground by Queiroz who would give on the spot quizzes or show videos to tighten up mistakes. At first the players were suspicious and hesitant but soon the treatment paid dividends. Whatever works to tighten a leaking defence must be done and fast, otherwise United will watch Ancelotti claim another title.
We all want to see the teams like the United of ’99 with the “you score three, we’ll get four” philosophy, but that doesn’t work n Europe anymore. The 1999 triumph was built on unrelenting attacking drive but owed as much to luck as it did to ability. No English side in the last two decades has had the brilliance of Guardiola’s Barcelona yet even Messi et al couldn’t by-pass Mourinho’s Inter defence in what Jonathan Wilson argues will become viewed as a seminal moment in football history. United won’t win without a proper defence and that relies on the return of Queiroz.