Why Manchester United have not signed a defender in the transfer window yet
At a club where the currency of success for new signings seems to be likes and retweets rather than goals or clean sheets, Manchester United cannot have trawled through social media stringently enough before they gifted Marcos Rojo, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones new contracts.
Heated fan opinions are seemingly as dismissive as a Tory prime ministerial candidate’s bluster. So amid the ongoing resistance at United to sign a centre half let’s go all Moneyball and consider some compelling statistics:
Since signing a £160,000-a-week contract in March 2018, Rojo has started five times for United.
Phil Jones missed three months of 2018-19 through different injuries.
Chris Smalling missed two months of 2018-19 through injury.
Eric Bailly has been out injured for at least 290 days of his three-year United career.
Now it is worth considering how ‘available’ these players have been.
Bailly has played in 74 out of a possible 173 United games. Jones’ ratio is 216 from 439, Smalling’s 323 from 499 and Rojo’s 113 from 276. The largely injury-free Victor Lindelof has managed 69 outings out of 109.
Bailly’s playing percentage ratio is 42.7 per cent.
Jones’ playing percentage ratio is 49.2 per cent.
Smalling: 64 per cent.
Rojo: 40.9 per cent.
Lindelof: 63.3 per cent.
The age range of the aforementioned players has to be examined. Lindelof, who cost £30.9million, turns 25 next month and the £30m Bailly is already 25. In the post-Neymar market, they represent frugal fees even for players United faced little or no competition for, despite their own fitness and form issues.
It is worth reminding United are prioritising ‘long-term’ players after the supposed ‘short-termism’ of the Jose Mourinho reign. Rojo is 29 and signed a three-year contract four days before he turned 28 last year. Chris Smalling inked a three-and-a-half year deal aged 29 in December and Phil Jones was 20 days short of his 27th birthday when he posed in the Carrington press room shaking Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s hand.
The aforementioned five made a combined 78 starts between them in the worst domestic defensive season United have had since 1978-79. United failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 15 fixtures of 2018-19.
Perhaps the most startling statistic is the quintet are the only centre halves United have bought since Nemanja Vidic arrived from Spartak Moscow for £7m in January 2006. That was the month the Arctic Monkeys released Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not.
Even legislating for the mitigation of Vidic’s awesome axis with Rio Ferdinand, Ferdinand began encountering back problems in the winter of 2008 that allowed Jonny Evans to make 29 starts in his breakthrough season.
For context, Manchester City have spent £182.7m on Martin Demichelis, Eliaquim Mangala, Nicolas Otamendi, John Stones and Aymeric Laporte in the last six years and want a quality centre half addition this summer. Liverpool invested £127.7m on Mamadou Sakho, Tiago Ilori, Dejan Lovren, Joe Gomez, Ragnar Klavan and Virgil van Dijk and signed Joel Matip on a free during the same period.
So going off the 13-and-a-half year Vidic timescale, United’s biggest historic rivals and the two best clubs in the country have bought as many or more centre halves than United have in less than half the time. Liverpool shipped just 22 Premier League goals last term and City 23. United sieved 54.
Smalling (bought in 2010), Jones (2011), Rojo (2014), Bailly (2016) and Lindelof cost a combined £103.4m. If United can be forgiven for relying on Vidic and Ferdinand until David Moyes’ appointment in 2013, what is telling is they have been reluctant to follow the market inflation with defenders since that watershed 2017 summer. Diogo Dalot – the only defensive acquisition in the last two years – cost £19m and his Porto contract included a release clause.
Instead of signing an external defender United signed up three internal ones approaching the final six months of their contract, albeit with an option of a one-year extension that was at the club’s discretion. Jones’ camp were prepared for the additional year to be activated and ‘surprised’ to receive the call about a longer contract.
Senior United sources have admitted the £54m Kyle Walker deal City negotiated two years ago distorted the market but described the £75m Van Dijk deal as ‘cheap’. United suits have also intimated they would be prepared to spend £100m on a suitable centre half. United supporters can justifiably ask what are they waiting for.
Ten months on – amid interest in Harry Maguire – United are getting cold feet about paying a premium for a central defender. The irony is they balked at Leicester’s £75m asking price for Maguire last August and he has since signed an improved and longer contract. So the asking price is nearer that nine-figure mark. But they still want him.
Raphael Varane was cited as the shining example of a £100m defender. Maguire is a month older than four-time Champions League and World Cup winner Varane and the year Ferguson travelled to France in an attempt to secure Varane’s signing before Real Madrid intervened, Maguire was reeling from FA Youth Cup final defeat with Sheffield United and relegation to League One.
Whatever United are playing at, it isn’t Moneyball.
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Source – https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/sport/football/man-utd-transfer-news-today-16453781