The prob­lem is no longer Maguire.

In the heart of Man­ches­ter Unit­ed’s defense for the match against Liv­er­pool, a dubi­ous pair of cen­tral defend­ers came out — Har­ry Maguire and Willie Kamb­wala. The first was active­ly sent away through­out the sum­mer trans­fer win­dow (dur­ing the sea­son he regained his place in the start­ing line­up), the sec­ond is only 19 years old, and only made his debut in the Pre­mier League in Decem­ber. A con­tro­ver­sial mea­sure against the Merseysiders, only Arse­nal scored more in the Pre­mier League (75 ver­sus 72). As a result, the Red Dev­ils con­ced­ed two, although they could have con­ced­ed much more. Jur­gen Klop­p’s fight­ers fired 28 shots and scored more than four points xG — the Man­cu­ni­ans saved them­selves thanks to a large num­ber of blocked shots (nine) and oppo­nent miss­es (only sev­en shots reached the tar­get).

What’s going on with Manchester United’s defence?

Man­ches­ter Unit­ed allowed a lot at their goal not only to the top Liv­er­pool, but also to much less dan­ger­ous oppo­nents. In recent cham­pi­onship games, Erik ten Hag’s team was dis­man­tled by Chelsea (3:4), Brent­ford (1:1), Ful­ham (1:2), Luton (2:1) and oth­ers. In 2024, she kept a clean sheet in only four of 15 match­es in all com­pe­ti­tions, and con­ced­ed 24 goals. Even in the won match­es, the Man­cu­ni­ans’ defense looked too chaot­ic. “I’ve nev­er had so many chances here,” Ever­ton man­ag­er Sean Dyche said after the Tof­fees’ 23-shot defeat at Old Traf­ford (0–2).

In the cur­rent cal­en­dar year, the Red Dev­ils are the worst in terms of shots allowed among all teams in the top 5 leagues: in 11 games they have already had 253 shots on goal, with an aver­age of con­sis­tent­ly more than 20 shots per 90 min­utes — insane. In the last two rounds of the Pre­mier League alone, the Man­cu­ni­ans’ oppo­nents struck 55 times — 27 from Chelsea and 28 from Liv­er­pool. With such indi­ca­tors it is impos­si­ble to count on pos­i­tive results, but Man­ches­ter Unit­ed almost won both match­es, miss­ing a pos­i­tive result in the end.

Man­ches­ter Unit­ed upset Liv­er­pool again. And made the cham­pi­onship race even more excit­ing

The work­load of the Red Dev­ils’ defense is per­fect­ly demon­strat­ed by the team’s first place in the Pre­mier League in the num­ber of blocked shots (172) and Andre Onan’s lead­er­ship in the num­ber of saves (118). More­over, the Cameroon­ian neu­tral­ized 63 shots from the penal­ty area at once — only Thomas Kamin­s­ki from Luton (69) and James Traf­ford from Burn­ley (71), goal­keep­ers of clubs from the rel­e­ga­tion zone, whose goals are a pri­ori often hit, were saved more in the entire league. “Their defen­sive play was ter­ri­ble in some sit­u­a­tions. In the match with Brent­ford, they were also a mess, United’s defense is a mess,” said ex-Tot­ten­ham coach Har­ry Red­knapp.

Pho­to “SE”

Ten Hag’s big prob­lem is injuries. In the cur­rent cam­paign, he has already field­ed 11 dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions of cen­tral defend­ers, and not always from spe­cial­ist stop­pers. The cup thriller with Liv­er­pool (4:3) end­ed with only two nom­i­nal defen­sive play­ers — Maguire and Dio­go Dalot. In the cham­pi­onship against the Merseysiders, 19-year-old Kam­b­vala played 90 min­utes not because of unstop­pable tal­ent (although the guy is gift­ed), but because, apart from him and Maguire, there were no oth­er healthy cen­tral defend­ers with any expe­ri­ence in the Pre­mier League. Raphael Varane, Vic­tor Lin­de­lof, Jon­ny Evans, Luke Shaw and Lisan­dro Mar­tinez were absent from the squad due to injuries. Tyrell Mala­sia has­n’t played at all this sea­son.

Due to con­stant injuries, there is no sta­bil­i­ty in Man­ches­ter Unit­ed’s defen­sive line — and we’re not just talk­ing about the cen­tral zone. On the left, due to the dis­ap­pear­ance of Mala­sia, long-term injuries to Shaw and the dis­as­trous loan of Ser­gio Reguilon (Ten Hag was assured that both of his col­leagues would be healthy), cen­ter-def Lin­de­lof, right-back Dalot or cen­tral mid­field­er Sofyan Amra­bat appeared. All this results in a dis­as­trous sea­son. The defeat to Chelsea was the 17th for Man­ches­ter in all com­pe­ti­tions — the last time such a num­ber of fail­ures accu­mu­lat­ed was in the 1989/90 sea­son, when the club fin­ished 13th in the cham­pi­onship.

Jean-Clair Todi­bo.
Pho­to by Glob­al Look Press

What changes await the defense this summer?

In the sum­mer, Man­ches­ter Unit­ed will begin to use the mon­ey of new boss Jim Rat­cliffe, and some of it will def­i­nite­ly be spent on updat­ing the defense. Accord­ing to ESPN, there is only one untouch­able defend­er on the team — Mar­tinez. At the same time, the Argen­tine plays very lit­tle this sea­son — he spent only 761 min­utes on the field in all tour­na­ments. Lisan­dro spent most of the cam­paign treat­ing his knee, and is now recov­er­ing from dam­age to his calf mus­cles.

Varane and Evans’ con­tracts expire at the end of the sea­son. The club offered the French­man a new agree­ment with a reduc­tion in salary; now the French­man receives 340 thou­sand pounds a week — only Casemiro (350) has more. His con­tract has a one-year exten­sion option. The 36-year-old North­ern Irish­man may even end his career — John­ny is once again plagued by fre­quent health prob­lems that plagued him even while play­ing for Leices­ter. Also, Man­ches­ter will not oppose the sales of Maguire and Lin­de­lof.

Fans are bul­ly­ing Maguire again. The recent cap­tain of Man­ches­ter Unit­ed does not deserve such bul­ly­ing

The Sun has iden­ti­fied a short­list of cen­tre-backs that Man­ches­ter Unit­ed will be look­ing to sign in the sum­mer — Bay­ern Munich’s Day­ot Upame­cano, Ben­fi­ca’s Anto­nio Sil­va and Nice’s Jean-Clair Todi­bo. You’ll prob­a­bly have the least trou­ble buy­ing the lat­ter, since Rat­cliffe is the own­er of the eaglets. True, oth­er top Pre­mier League clubs are also fol­low­ing the 24-year-old foot­ball play­er. Jean-Clair has made pow­er­ful progress in Ligue 1 — he is the main play­er in Nice, which con­ced­ed the fewest goals in the cham­pi­onship (22 goals in 28 match­es), and in Sep­tem­ber he made his debut for the French nation­al team.

Man­ches­ter Unit­ed is look­ing for a long-term part­ner for Mar­tinez, and oth­er names were also men­tioned in the media. Max Kil­man from Wolver­hamp­ton and Jar­rad Bran­th­waite from Ever­ton have grown notice­ably in the Pre­mier League this sea­son, but so far they are infe­ri­or in sta­tus to oth­er poten­tial Red Dev­ils new­com­ers. One of them will have to solve Unit­ed’s defen­sive prob­lems, the club’s cur­rent lev­el of defense is a fail­ure. Injuries and end­less rota­tion have turned the Man­cun­ian defense into chaos and an end­less stream of rea­sons for cre­at­ing memes.