“He’s the best natural defender in the country.”
Sir Alex Ferguson knows his football, at times he has been accused of saying one thing whilst meaning another but when he reiterates a point continually you know he means it.
Sir Alex has called Wes Brown the best natural defender in the country as well as the most natural defender we’ve had at the club for years at various points during Wes’ careera so that is a slight indication of how highly Wes is rated but also how good a defender he is.
Brown has struggled with various injuries in his career but always seems to bounce but as he gets older you can see they are starting to take their toll. From his knees to his ankle to broken bones in his foot, Brown has slowly been pegged back and seen his playing time at United limited, a massive shame considering the performance he put in on the right side of our defence in 2007/2008.
That season he was part of a fine defensive unit that turned away some of Europe’s finest as United won the European Cup and the League (he also put in the cross for Ronaldo’s goal in the final) so it’s a shame that injuries knocked him out of his stride.
At the start of this season the right back spot was very much up for grabs. I remember pleading for Rafael to be given a chance or even Wes ahead of John O’Shea who for me hadn’t been performing. Rafael eventually won that battle (we are all thankful!) whilst Wes has been reduced to the odd cameo here and there. Even at times when you though he was dead on to make an appearance he was nowhere to be seen.
There were rumours of a fallout with Sir Alex which would explain his absence but how bad would this fall out have had to have been for the best natural defender we’ve had for years to be appearing on the sides of milk cartons? Of course the emergence of Rafael as a defensive force as well as an attacking one means the right back spot isn’t up for debate any more, if he’s fit he plays, but it is slightly worrying that both Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans are both considered ahead of him at centre back too no questions asked.
Wes has made just 10 first team appearances this season but what is worrying is that he has turned out for the more than he has in the league with 6 appearances for the second string compared to 5 in the league. Of course these things are easy to pick up on and inevitably there was talk of him moving on in January with Spurs sniffing around as well as talk of a potential move in the summer and he would be well within his right to go. At 31, Wes has a few years in him and could put in some good performances if given the chance to get a good run of games under his belt but it is unlikely he will get this at United whether it is because of a fall out with Sir Alex or because of the development of Smalling and Evans.
Wes for me should be second choice behind Rafael at right back and if not for the fact that these are integral developmental years for Smalling and Evans, I could see why Brown would be picked ahead of the two in the event that either Rio or Vida are injured.
With Ferdinand out on Saturday, it is more than likely that Brown won’t be called in to fill his boots despite his experience (this morning Sir Alex confirmed that Smalling will indeed start and stated he has enough experience to handle the huge event that is the Manchester derby) thus in that case again he must look at his situation and weigh up if he wants to be here and wait for a chance that may not come or pursue pastures greener.