Defeat to Leicester signifies the sixth time that Manchester United have conceded five goals in their Premier League history but their first time to a newly promoted side.
Last Sunday saw Leicester City defeat Manchester United by a scoreline of 5 goals to 3. In a second half rout, Leicester came back from the seemingly unsurmountable position of losing 1-3, to run riot in the last twenty minutes, scoring four goals in the process, and delighting fans by securing three unexpected points.
United have bought big in the summer, spending £150million on five permanent signings, as well as securing Radamel Falcao on a season-long loan. Any squad that has such a huge figure spent on them in a little over two months should be competing at the highest levels, however, as it has been said, United have ‘mismanaged’ their summer signings. United had attempted to disguise their defensive frailties by buying attacking talent, highlighted by their signing of Angel Di Maria for an English record fee in the region of £60million (who has done impressively well in his first few games, giving the team direction and pace going forwards)in the hope that United would score more than they concede. Whilst, this may yet be the case in many fixtures this season, they will also, as their defeat away at Leicester has shown, be on the wrong side of big scorelines.
The summer departures of defensive stalwarts Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra have hit United hard. They are all admittedly beyond their best, and slightly over the hill, but then again they have all spent a prolonged period representing the club as captain, and provide crucial experience and leadership. By most recent viewing, the only summer purchase that has so far added to the defensive structure of the side is Daley Blind, signed for £14million from Ajax. Blind plays in the Owen Hargreaves role that United have lacked in recent years, following the latter’s knee injury problems, and has excelled in his first two appearances.
This season’s major problem for Manchester United will be the balance of their side. With all their attacking talent, which they foolishly try to incorporate into a single starting XI, they are left exposed at the back, allowing teams with pace to counter-attack simply. Against Leicester, United lined up in a 4-4-2 formation (with the midfield four being a diamond); however their average formation at the end of the ninety minutes resembled a 2-4-4.
The great teams all have a balance to their line-up and their play. Even the star-studded Real Madrid side showed that they had finally found a style of play that enabled them to win their tenth European Cup last season. The on-field relationship between their central midfield three – Luka Modric, Sami Khedira and, most importantly, Xabi Alonso – secured the platform on which Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo could perform. Madrid will struggle to reach the heights and the performances achieved last season following the departures of both Di Maria (who was Man of the Match in the Champions League Final) to Manchester United and Alonso to Bayern Munich (who have a wonderfully balanced side, with every player willing to put a shift in week in week out).
United need to strengthen defensively before they have a chance of competing in the Premier League and Europe, and to do that, they must achieve a top four finish to their domestic campaign this season. But to strengthen in defence does not necessarily mean to go out and sign two world class centre backs, each for £40million. United must learn to defend as a whole unit with high-intensity, as Leicester do themselves.