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19th Sep 2017

Gary Neville identifies worrying problem position at Manchester United

He's not wrong

Robert Redmond

He’s not wrong.

Gary Neville reckons Manchester United have a problem position, and it’s difficult to disagree with the former defender. United are top of the table with Manchester City following Sunday’s 4-0 victory over Everton at Old Trafford.

The Manchester clubs have each played five games, won four and drew one in the league so far this season. They’ve both scored 16 goals and conceded just two.

Despite their impressive defensive record, Neville feels his former club face a potential problem at left-back. Jose Mourinho has used three different players in the position so far this season – Daley Blind, Matteo Darmian and Ashley Young. Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo can also play in the position. Shaw is returning to fitness after recovering from an injury and Rojo is a few months away from playing again, after suffering an injury at the end of last season.

However, it appears Mourinho doesn’t have a specialist left-back that he trusts. Blind has played well, but isn’t a natural in the position, and Young is a converted winger. Darmian has yet to prove worthy of a regular starting spot and Mourinho does not seem to rate Shaw, as he often questioned his fitness and ability last season. Rojo has played his best football for United in central defence.

Neville has claimed that the position could pose a potential headache for Mourinho, which is in stark contrast to the right-back slot, where Antonio Valencia has excelled.

“I think the problem is on the other side at left-back, where Ashley Young was put under a lot of pressure by [Tom] Davies and [Cuco] Martina,” Neville said on Sky Sports following Sunday’s win over Everton.

“Blind’s played there, Rojo’s played there, Shaw’s played there, Darmian’s played there, they can’t button that one down. But Valencia at right-back has been absolutely fantastic.”

Valencia has become of the Premier League’s top right-backs over the past season or so, after converting from being a traditional winger. The Ecuadorian was captain on Sunday and opened the scoring with a brilliant strike from outside of Everton’s penalty area.

“He’s been absolutely outstanding for the last 18 months, two years,” Neville about Valencia.

“I had doubts as to whether it could last in the long term with him, I thought it was more of a stop-gap until they signed a right-back. But he’s the real thing, he is a top right-back now. He’s strong, quick, supports the attack, and doesn’t make any mistakes. United don’t need to sign a right-back. To think they signed Darmian as the right-back, Valencia is head and shoulders above him.”

It would be a shame if Shaw didn’t fulfil his potential at United, as he looked like becoming one of the Premier League’s best left-backs a few seasons ago. If none of the defenders are deemed worthy of inclusion at left-back, Mourinho will most likely strengthen in that position next, as the rest of his squad seems nicely balanced.

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