It has been highlighted since the start of this mediocre season for the red half of Manchester (worst since 1986-87) that with a good back four, United could have a chance at the title once again.
With Smalling’s dismissal and Rojo’s shoulder injury in the Manchester derby on Saturday, Van Gaal’s defensive woes seem far from over. With Vidic and Ferdinand moving to Inter Milan and QPR respectively after last season Van Gaal was left with a rather inexperienced back line.
The Dutch manager has called Smalling’s behavior in United’s 1-0 defeat to City “stupid” after the 24-year-old was firstly booked for a pointless attempt to block Joe Hart’s drop kick and was given his second yellow for an extremely hopeful challenge on James Milner who had too much pace for Smalling.
Talking to BBC Sport, Van Gaal said, “In a derby you have to be careful – the second yellow card is a stupid yellow card,
“I didn’t see the first yellow but with the second, you know you already have a yellow, so have to handle it differently. I said that to the players.”
With Smalling’s suspension, the Red Devils now have five defenders sidelined (Smalling, Rojo, Rafael, Jones and Evans) which leaves Van Gaal, once again, with limited options at the back. Although even when he does have options the former Netherlands manager, who was this week named on the shortlist for FIFA World Coach of the Year, can’t seem to get it right with only three wins so far this season.
In order to get back to where United belong they will have to stop relying on attacking prowess and take the January transfer window as an opportunity to bolster the back four with an experienced center-half that can lead and organise on the pitch.
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