Graeme Souness has told Manchester United that any money spent on defenders like Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka is ‘money down the drain’ due to the club’s poor midfield options.
The former Liverpool star hit out at the likes of Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba for not offering enough protection to United’s defence, effectively making their strengthening at the back a little pointless.
“United are trying to rebuild from the back after signing Harry Maguire from Leicester City for £80m and Aaron Wan-Bissaka from Crystal Palace for £50m,” Souness wrote in the Times.
“I rate Maguire. He will be disappointed with how it’s gone so far, but I’d not put it all at his door. He’ll be compared with Virgil van Dijk because they play the same position and both were signed for huge sums, but Van Dijk joined a superior side at Anfield.
“When a team is conceding goals, people focus on the goalkeeper and back four. Their mistakes, their vulnerability, how they seem to be caught out of position. But most of the time that’s because the midfield in front of them are not doing their job properly, so they have to step out and confront situations or make saves.
“United’s midfield are too easy to play against. Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay and co should have been sprinting out to put West Ham’s midfielders under pressure. If you’re a defender with that in front of you and the opposition have time to pick a pass, you’re going to be in trouble and that’s where United find themselves.
“When I played in midfield, I had one thought: ‘I’m going to stop the guy I’m playing against today, then develop my own game from there.’
“In contrast, Pogba’s first thought is to show everybody how clever and cute he can be. If that’s the example your main man in midfield is setting, you’re too easy to play against, and until they fix it, United’s back five will be fire-fighting.
“They can spend massively on Maguire, give Victor Lindelof a new five-year deal, De Gea four more lucrative years and sign Wan-Bissaka for £50m and it will all be money down the drain.”
While Souness has a point, it’s also fair to say that Man Utd had to strengthen in a variety of areas this summer, and defence was one of them.
Going into another season with the likes of Chris Smalling and Eric Bailly as first choice was pretty much unthinkable, while Wan-Bissaka was needed to replace the departing Antonio Valencia at right-back.
Of course, MUFC did need to strengthen in midfield as well but fans will be aware that this is a long-term rebuilding job for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and that opportunity will come again later.