Ferdinand was an unrivaled center-back between 2006 and 2008, a run interrupted by a problematic back injury. His partnership with Vidic was second to none, but Vidic ironically improved without Ferdinand in 2008-09, when he accepted the Sir Matt Busby award for player of the year, a statue as tough as the Serbian. “He’s from Serbia, he’s going to fuck you,” the song said.
The second half of Evra’s eight-year career at United did not peak at his first, but he was a bargain in the days of Schmeichel, Kanchelskis, Cantona and Keane. United paid £ 12.5million for Evra and Vidic (Phil Jones alone cost £ 4million more) and both wore the armband with distinction.
Louis van Gaal had wanted to keep Evra as a mentor to Luke Shaw and, seven years after Evra’s farewell to his United teammates in Beverly Hills, Shaw has reached the level Evra has been performing at for several years. Harry Maguire is United’s first world-class center-back since Vidic ten years ago and Raphael Varane is expected to be second.
Maguire-Varane is pretty much the full partnership. No cracks in the armor and Maguire’s resurgence began last season alongside sportier Eric Bailly. It is no coincidence that United are chasing Varane, having considered Pau Torres – timed as La Liga’s fastest center-back – after two years of struggling with Victor Lindelof.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer mustered a clear and obvious back with the £ 130million investments in Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka in 2019. Manchester City and Liverpool had already spent a lot back and center-back and United stepped into action a year too. late. They were not in a strong buy position and the summer was a transitional one.
United suffered their worst top-level defensive season in 2018-19 and Maguire was still expected to make an impact, but that rebound only lasted for one season. United have scored eight more league goals in 2020-21 – more than eighth-placed Arsenal.
Solskjaer has a potential world-class right-back at Wan-Bissaka, but he suffered from a mild case of second season syndrome. Opponents targeted his hesitant defense at the far post and while the number of attackers increased, they were not a reliable indicator of his reluctance.
Bury-born Kieran Trippier is hoping to join his childhood club in one final cinematic work: a return home to Manchester to become United champion again. Trippier is a La Liga winner and a Champions League and European Championship finalist who has comfortably retained his place in the England squad. No wonder he has no plans to take on the role of replacement for the uncapped Wan-Bissaka.
Mauricio Pochettino was optimistic about Kyle Walker’s departure for City in 2017 as he already had Trippier. Prior to that, Trippier was popular with players and staff at Burnley, where his character was widely praised. As the personalities evolve, Trippier is poles apart from the quiet Wan-Bissaka, one of the few footballers to be inaudible with the turnstiles locked.
United’s defensive coverage is stable, if not stellar, and they could end the window with two international full-backs. They would have the expertise to move to a fullback three with Trippier, a more natural back than the limited Wan-Bissaka. The pinnacle of Alex Telles’ short United career was with Luke Shaw tucked away next to him on his Paris Saint-Germain debut.
In United’s hat-trick in the late 2000s, they scored 27 goals in 2006-07, 22 in 2007-08 and 24 in 2008-09. Since then they have only reached under 30 for goals against in 2009-10 and Jose Mourinho’s two full campaigns.
Mourinho would have loved Varane and coveted Maguire.