Holding Chelsea to a 1-1 draw is never an easy to accomplish achievement. Especially when the Blues are soaring far ahead of the others in the table and there’s no catching them. After all, there is no ostensible weakness in their thus far undefeated side. And on top of that, they seem to be that side which have what it takes to replicate what the Invincibles of Arsenal did back in 2004.
Robin van Persie’s last ditch, fierce rebound ensured that United would head into the Manchester derby brimming with new found confidence. Although, United had a total of 19 shots on target but defensively a similar story seemed to have unfolded.
Defending set pieces is something they’ve long forgotten. Didier Drogba’s trademark, picture perfect header had handed Chelsea the initiative in the 52nd minute but after a decent defensive showing in the first half, it had fallen apart. The marking was all over the place and it was ridiculous to see Rafael marking someone as big as Drogba. No matter how good they’re up front, their defensive sector still lags far behind the other Premier League clubs.
There’s a gaping void which is shouting out to be replaced by a leader. And although, both Dani Alves and Victor Valdes aren’t centre halves but they’ve got an aura of dominance around their presence. They’re the type of personalities junior players can look upto during tough times. They’re experienced, vocal and far more authoritative than any other United defender.
Dani Alves, the 31 year old Barcelona right back has made a name for himself all due to his marauding runs down the flank. He’s powerful, strong and someone who can run up and down the right side, without getting caught near the half way line. One other quality which stands out is his vocal and candid nature. He knows how to have a pop at team mates when they aren’t organized or doing their best. That’s what United have been lacking so far this season.
He can even act as someone who can help Rafael develop into a new himself. His presence will keep the 24 year old Brazilian on his toes and will make sure that he doesn’t get carried away with one or two good games. He’s got a lot of undoubted potential and probably has what it takes to be rightly heralded as the ‘Next Daniel Alves’ and he’d would have a far better chance of living up to this tag if he play alongside the man himself.
United don’t have a pure right back in their ranks except for Rafael and Dani Alves can play second fiddle to him, or he may even oust him in that. Valencia is usually deployed as right winger and both Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are vital to the solidarity of United’s back line at central defense. But, he’s 31 and aging. Imagining that he moves to Old Trafford, he’ll take some time to adjust to the conditions and start delivering the goods. Rafael can, meanwhile take up a first team role and start chuffing Van Gaal to bits until Alves gets up and running properly.
Rumors suggest that Alves has a preliminary agreement with Louis van Gaal’s side and may well end up joining them next summer.
As far as Victor Valdes is concerned, reports suggest that Valdes trained with Man United and a move to Old Trafford can take place within 2 weeks itself.
David de Gea has been phenomenal for the Reds since joining. Of course, he’s endured a fair share of hiccups early in his United career but he’s increasingly being heralded as The Premier League’s Best Goalkeeper and a perfect replacement for legend Edwin van der Sar. His saves have been blinding and he deserves every bit of recognition he’s been getting.
But, as is the case with all footballers, a slight tinge of complacency always creeps in when there’s no serious competition to your position. And being young, such things are bound to happen. Anders Lindegaard is seemingly no match for someone as good as De Gea and is in fact, providing competition to Ben Amos and Sam Johnstone in the Reserves side. The signing of an experienced stopper makes perfect sense.
Valdes, has made more than 500 appearances for Barcelona, including stints at the Catalan club’s B and C sides. He’s 32 and very mature as a keeper and as a person. He had captained Barcelona numerous times and has what it takes to play for a club as big as United. He was arguably the most vocal player on the pitch at Barcelona and he’s as brave as Sir Ranulph Fiennes, in some cases. He’s very quick off his line and makes daredevil clearances hardly bothering about his own regard.
As mentioned above, United’s defending during set pieces has been nothing short of catastrophic. Louis van Gaal has himself stressed upon the fact that United lack organization at the back and they’re in dire needs of a leader. Junior Players or rather junior centre halves will look up to people like Valdes and Alves and their presence will ensure that the first choice players of their position don’t get carried away and get complacent about how good they’re.