Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may not be the most celebrated of tactical minds but the Manchester United manager deserves a huge amount of respect for how he has improved their defensive fortunes recently. Since the embarrassing 6-1 loss to Tottenham Hotspur in October, United have managed to keep the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool and a resurgent Everton from scoring during their rise to the top of the Premier League table. Still, that may have come at a price.
While United boast an enviably varied frontline, with Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba feeding the likes of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani, something hasn’t clicked with them in the traditionally bigger games this season.
Perhaps the strange nature of this season means a draw is no longer quite as much as a blow to a team chasing the title as it would have been in the last three years, but the lack of cutting edge when playing their rivals at the summit could, ultimately, prove fatal in a title race.
The answer, however, is not by signing another striker. That kind of thinking has been typical of the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era, with attacking players brought to Old Trafford at huge expense only to look like square pegs in round holes at the very least. The answer, this time, may come in the shape of a defensive player they’ve recently been linked.
The latest transfer news has linked Lens’ Argentine central defender Facundo Medina with a move to Man Utd and, despite their aforementioned improvement at the back, that profile of player looks tailor-made in helping United reach the next level.
Hailing from the notorious Villa Fiorito area of Buenos Aires – the birthplace of one Diego Maradona – Medina is a front-footed defender who could help United adopt a higher line, potentially fashioning more chances from higher up the pitch.
As impressive as Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof have been, neither are noted for their pace. In fact, the problem has been so glaring at times that United have dropped deeper than you’d expect from a team of their stature not coached by a certain Jose Mourinho.
Eric Bailly does offer the chance to push up but the Ivorian has rarely wholly convinced since joining in 2016 and has suffered a number of long-term injuries of late, missing 37 games over the last two seasons according to Transfermarkt.
In the nine games Bailly has started this season up until this point, United have lost only once, scoring seventeen goals. While strikes plundered is not usually a metric used to measure a defender’s impact, it is indicative of the freedom in pushing up the pitch a player of such attributes allows.
Though it’s difficult to quantify speed, the pace of Facundo Medina pace has been praised, while his ability to dominate the whole of the left-hand channel thanks to his reading of the game would suggest he’s capable of freeing up space to allow a ball-player such as Maguire to build from the back for Man Utd. With speed next to the England international, the need to drop off so much would be somewhat negated, allowing the unit to push up together.
At the time of writing, WhoScored data note that none of United’s current options average as many tackles per game, while only Maguire averages more interceptions over the same period. Clearly, there’s no guarantee he’d replicate those relatively impressive statistics in the Premier League but at an apparent £11m, the platform someone like Facundo Medina could offer Man Utd seems worth the risk, even in the summer market.
Since being released by River Plate as a youngster, the 21-year-old has enjoyed a soaring upward trajectory. Two seasons with Talleres earned him a move to Lens in the summer of 2020, where he’s established himself as a first-team regular in an impressive season for the club.
As a relatively cut-price option, he’s the type of defender who can improve United’s overall structure in attack.