Tuesday 12 October 2021

It never rains but it pours for Manchester United

An already brutal and season defining fortnight has just got a whole lot tougher for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Manchester United side.
As if Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester City and Spurs aren't enough to contend with, United will have to do so without our two first choice centre backs in captain Harry Maguire and his World Cup winning partner in crime Raphael Varane. Sod's law isn't it - bloody typical. Someone somewhere has a very warped sense of humour. 

Varane has transformed our leaky defence since signing in the summer in an impressive start to life in the red of United. But now the man whom exists in the throng of high end competition - a man whom thrives on the biggest stage - will miss United's make or break run through injury. These are exactly the type of games we brought Varane to the club for but yet he will now fulfil merely a watching brief from the bench. It seems like a key United player picks up a significant injury each time they go away with their countries during these poxy and ultimately pointless international breaks. 

Red hearts shot into mouths everywhere when Varane was forced off shortly before the interval in Les Bleus Nations League final victory over Spain on Sunday. Then came the news we'd been dreading - our no.19 is out for a "few weeks" with a groin injury meaning Solskjaer's United are down to the bare bones at the heart of the backline. It's the very definition of untimely. 

Victor Lindelof, to his credit, has done well in lieu of the injured Maguire since he replaced his captain against Aston Villa. Lindelof is good on the ball and possesses a decent range of passing from deep, but it remains one of life's great mysteries how a man so alarmingly average at everything else continues not only to play, but wear the armband, for Sweden.  The man would lose an aerial duel to Bilbo Baggins. Yet he will be forced from the fringes as Ole's third choice to become no.1 - the integral bedrock at the back as United attempt to navigate a fixture list that would give even Paolo Maldini nightmares. Having said that, many of the Iceman's best showings in Red have come against the best England has to offer - he will certainly need to be on his mettle to shackle Jamie Vardy, Mo Salah, Harry Kane and Kevin de Bruyne et al - so perhaps we won't need to watch from behind the sofa after all.

Eric Bailly has only featured once for the Reds all season, alongside Lindelof no less, in United's early Carabao Cup KO to West Ham. When fit, the Ivorian has proved himself as perhaps the Reds most capable centre-back but he's made of glass and has, unbelievably, been absent for 30% of all competitive United games since signing for the club. Bailly cannot be relied upon to stay injury free for more than five seconds which is a massive concern when you've got a string of massive fixtures so close together. 

It's a trend which could lead to the greatest comeback since Lazarus. Bailly will have to play two games a week for a month but he's is bound to injure himself on a blade of grass at some stage over the next month or so, so the stage is set for the resurrection, the Second Coming of surely Old Trafford's greatest survivor. Enter: Philip Anthony Jones. The destiny of our entire season - and maybe even the manager's very future at the club - could well be firmly in the hands of a man who shouldn't even be here. Whoever would have thought.. 

Jones last played for United 20 months and 625 days ago - when things were normal in a pre-Covid era: a time before lockdowns, masks and social distancing. He played, and scored, in our 6-0 FA Cup win at then League One Tranmere but hasn't been seen since. Now somehow in his eleventh season at the club, Jones has been the butt of many a joke and the subject of a number of internet memes. Having stayed at the club, he spent the entirety of 2020-21 on the sidelines but has featured in a few 'behind closed doors' friendlies and was an unused sub in the aforementioned cup loss to the Hammers. I don't think the world has enough alcohol to get me through Phil Jones lining up in defence against Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and co on October 24th.. even the very thought of it makes me want to gouge my eyes out. We're a defensive injury away from tha
t unpalatable nightmare coming true.. shudder! 

Much has been said and written about our no.4 but now comes his shot at redemption with Jones waiting in the wings to step up in our of need. 

It never rains but it pours for Manchester United. 

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