Let’s just start off by saying this whole discussion should have a huge asterisk next to it that reads “It’s only pre-season”.
With that said let’s go ahead and make a somewhat wild statement anyway. Here it is: Unless Manchester United sign a top class, experienced centre-back, they’ll get nowhere near the Premier League title.
Now you may be reading thinking “That’s not TOO out there of a statement” and in fairness you’d be right, it’s an easy assertion to make. As if you’ve watched any of United’s pre-season encounters, especially those with Europe’s elite(sorry San Jose), you’d have noticed that shakiness, that ever-present murmuring in your head saying “….Phil Jones…any moment now he’s going to f*ck up”.
That’s not to say the blame lies with young Phil of course, but when not marshalled by an experienced campaigner as his side you always worry about his decision making. If Louis van Gaal’s post-game comments after the 2-0 defeat to French champions Paris Saint-Germain in Chicago on Thursday are anything to go by, then it’s the face-pulling Lancastrian’s place that’s the one up for grabs.
That would mean it’s all but certain Daley Blind will start the season on the left of the centre-back pairing. A thought that may send shivers down some fans spines given some of his defensive lapses last season. Blind has a good footballing brain which will help him do the job, but looking at the first game in isolation, up against Tottenham Hotspur and Harry Kane, United will desperately need not just some experience, but some height.
You’d guess, that would be where Chris Smalling enters the thinking. However guessing at van Gaal’s thought process makes me pull a face like, well, like a face Phil Jones pulls while lunging in to a risky challenge on the edge of his own box.
While the starting line-up for that game isn’t a sure thing, the need to buy a new centre-back is. If you’ve been keeping tabs on the latest news flung from the transfer merry-go-round you’d know that the Sergio Ramos link has gone as cold as I imagine relations between him and Florentino Perez are right about now. With that David De Gea involved stalemate looking to continue it would have seemed all roads pointed to Nicolas Otamendi. But those mysterious media ‘sources’ are it again in the last couple of days and seem to think van Gaal doesn’t fancy him. That would actually make sense given that if he did, surely the deal would have been sealed with a personal lipstick kiss from Ed Woodward on the paperwork.
Options run thin when you put aside both of those summer long ‘sagas’. About as thin as Manchester United’s defence looks if they don’t add someone.
Which in turn will leave their title chances looking pretty darn thin too.
Written by Chris who can be found on Twitter @Coates_17