Wes Brown is certainly a player that Jones could learn from. Brown is simply a defender that loves to defend. There are no airs and graces about him. He’s tough, solid in the air and crunching in the tackle. Only a series of long-term injuries over his career have stopped him from ever really making a lasting impression on the first-team at Utd. Now at Sunderland, he appears to be holding the defence together on his own at times.
Letting O’Shea go in the summer seemed strange one to me at first viewing too. Last season he seemed a key member of the squad, starting 20 Premier League games, 32 across all competitions and getting the nod ahead of Rafael Da Silva for both the Man City and Chelsea clashes. He’s a dependable and versatile player with a temperament for what Shteve McLaren famously once called the ‘big gameshh’.
It’s not that Ferguson will be unfamiliar with the need for defensive strength in depth either, for the injury crisis suffered at the back by the current champions played a pivotal part in handing the 2009/10 season title over to Chelsea.
Darren Fletcher had this to say on the matter at the end of the season in question: “Without those defensive injuries it could have been very different. At one stage we had one fit defender in the squad. No team has been able to cope with that.
We had three or four games in that position and ultimately it has cost us. If you are going to win the title in England you need a settled defence.” Ferguson had to field a side on four separate occasions with only two recognised defenders in it; Patrice Evra, who was mainly deployed as a wing back and youngster Richie De Laet over that crucial month in the Premier League calendar, January.
To put it simply, Nemanja Vidic cannot return to full fitness soon enough. His presence has been sorely missed. Ferguson has been hampered by injuries at the back this season and frustrated in his attempts to put out a settled defence. This may go some way to explaining the statistic that every visiting side to Old Trafford this term in the league has registered 20 attempts on goal – only 2 sides have achieved the same feat in the previous 5 seasons.
O’Shea and Brown are not the only answer to defensive solidity, far from it, but their experienced heads may have gone some way to ensuring Utd were more covered at the back during pressing times such as these. Keeping both O’Shea and Brown may have proved unwise in the long-run, but letting go of both of them is now starting to look short-sighted.
Written by James McManus for FootballFancast.com. You can follow me on Twitter @JamesMcManus1
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