Manchester United trio Chris Smalling, Eric Bailly and Marcos Rojo were “dreadful” in their distribution against Arsenal, according to Tony Cascarino.
The Sky Sports Daily pundit was savage in his criticism of the three-man defence, pointing the finger at Smalling and Bailly in particular for their lack of ability on the ball in the 2-2 draw at Old Trafford on Wednesday night.
“I think back to the likes of John Terry, Sol Campbell and Tony Adams, and they would all be able to find a team-mate with a pass when under pressure, but Manchester United’s back three last night were dreadful in possession,” Cascarino told the Times. “If you want to be a pass-and-move team, you have to have players who can pass from the back.
“Marcos Rojo, Chris Smalling and Eric Bailly — especially the last two — were awful, and of course Gareth Southgate has expressed his concern at Smalling’s ability on the ball. Of United’s main five centre backs, Victor Lindelof is probably the best at passing, though not by much.”
One of the greatest-ever ball-playing Man United centre-backs was at Old Trafford on Wednesday, but he was watching from the television gantry wondering how on earth things can improve at his former club. Rio Ferdinand is a United legend and the harsh truth is that none of the centre-backs at Jose Mourinho’s disposal is fit to lace his boots. The transformed Victor Lindelof, currently out injured, has emerged the best of them, although that is not saying a great deal. Smalling is his first-choice partner but the England international is far more comfortable in the air than on the deck, and it is hard to see United mounting a league challenge in such a competitive league with him in the middle of the defence. Phil Jones is little better and, with Mourinho lacking the coaching ability or wherewithal to improve his charges on the training ground, as usual he looks to the transfer window for all the answers. United might wait until the summer – and Mourinho is gone – before spending £60million-plus on the elite centre-back the team are crying out for.