Manchester United were often critiqued for the quality of their defense, or lack thereof, in recent years.
Even under a defensively capable gaffer like Jose Mourinho, the Red Devils didn’t boast the best of defenders. The tag of mediocrity was oft attached to the Old Trafford outfit’s backline, a sharp departure from the days of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand.
As a result, the club was often reliant on the shotstopping heroics of David De Gea to power their victories through.
This summer saw a sharp change in that with the defensive reinforcements of Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who were purchased purely to amend the aforementioned flaws.
In terms of departures, Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian were permitted to leave the side.
Further, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and company also chose to offload Chris Smalling on a season-long loan to Roma in order to best accommodate the defensive options at the club.
Now, Smalling reveals precisely what the Norwegian gaffer told him prior to the move.
Speaking to the Telegraph, Smalling reveals: “He (Solskjaer) said I would get games. I am used to playing when I am fit. Although that might have been slightly different this season, I would have had the cup games and then in the league, depending on injuries.”
The 29-year-old defender goes on to add: “Would it have been the 40-50 games that I am used to if fit? It might have been the 20-30. Still a good number of games but I want to play.”
While Solskjaer has found tremendous success in the defensive pairing of Lindelof and Maguire, the recent heroics of Axel Tuanzebe also paint a hopeful future for the club.
Further, it is evident that the gaffer is planning on building a balanced ethos at Old Trafford and defensive stability is crucial to that style.