Man United’s £375m of spending on defenders since Fergie retired — rated!
Much was made of United’s expensively assembled back line and how it once again crumbled as a back four that cost £200 million in transfer fees was systematically torn asunder by Spurs. And that’s not even factoring in the vast amount of money that have been thrown at David de Gea in contract renewals over recent years to keep him between the sticks at Old Trafford.
Indeed, since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in May 2013, United have gone out and spent a total of £375.3m on defenders, with scant improvement to show for it.
After running the rule over Manchester City‘s defensive recruitment under Pep Guardiola last week in the wake of their 5-2 loss to Leicester City, it seems only right to shift the scrutiny to Old Trafford.
Here’s a look at the value United got for their money. All fees are according to transfermarkt.
Harry Maguire (£78.3m from Leicester City, 2019)
The most expensive defender in the world bar none, Maguire has come in for heavy criticism in recent weeks after a string of error-strewn performances. He may be United’s club captain, but he’s hardly leading by example. A little less “slab head” required; a little more finesse.
– United ratings: Maguire 2/10 in United’s hideous defeat
United were crying out for a dependable right-back in the wake of Antonio Valencia‘s departure and that’s exactly what they got in Wan-Bissaka — though they had to pay big money to land him. Usually solid at the back, although his reputation as a full-back who is hard to beat in one-on-one situations took a hit on Sunday when he was sent out of the game by one cut inside from Spurs left-back Ben Davies.
Defensively sound and reassuringly comfortable on the ball when required, Bailly undoubtedly would have been lauded as one of United’s most impressive defensive success stories had his time at the club not been blighted by near-constant injury woes.
Rating: Hit (when fit)
Struggled under managers Louis van Gaal and particularly Jose Mourinho, who regularly appeared to single Shaw out for public flagellation. Despite myriad issues with form and fitness, the 25-year-old has worked back to become United’s first-choice left-back — though that doesn’t mean he’s necessarily won the doubters over yet.
The Sweden international is assured on the ball and positionally very adept, but often struggles against quick, agile opponents and aerial bombardments. Should United invest heavily in another centre-back it’s likely to be Lindelof who finds himself surplus to requirements.
Diogo Dalot (£19.8m from Porto, 2018)
Dalot was signed by Mourinho, who heralded the 19-year-old as being the “best young full-back in Europe” upon his arrival. However, the Portuguese under-21 international has since failed to make any substantial progress at United and has gone on loan to AC Milan in search of first-team football.
A chaotic presence at the best of times, Rojo’s brand of scrappy nuisance defending failed to convince three different United managers of his reliability. The Argentina international quietly returned home to join Estudiantes on loan back in January and is unlikely to feature again at Old Trafford.
Darmian made over 50 appearances for United but we’re hard pressed to recall a single one of them. A ghost-like presence at Old Trafford for several years, the spindly Italy international made just seven appearances during the 2018-19 campaign before exiting via the back door to join Parma. The 30-year-old has this season joined Antonio Conte’s band of Old Trafford outcasts at Inter Milan on a season-long loan.
The most modest signing on the list and yet still one of United’s more astute defensive investments, Blind was first deployed as a defensive midfielder by Van Gaal but his versatility and intelligent reading of the game enabled him to provide regular and dependable cover across the back four. The Netherlands international returned to boyhood club Ajax in 2018.