Rio Ferdinand has offered an example from his playing days on the art of defending and has urged former side Manchester United to focus on the ‘finer details’ as they bid to improve.
United have enjoyed a strong run of form over the festive period and currently sit fourth in the Premier League ahead of tonight’s clash with Wolves, though concerns remain over the club’s defensive strength with no side in the top half having conceded more goals.
The defending of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side was once again questioned as they drew 2-2 with Leicester on Boxing Day, the visitors held to a draw at the King Power Stadium despite twice leading.
United have been linked with a host of new centre-backs ahead of the January transfer window, with the likes of Villarreal’s Pau Torres and Brighton’s Ben White amongst the names reportedly on the club’s shortlist of targets.
Ferdinand believes that new additions in defence are not the sole avenue towards improvement, however, and says time spent on the training ground is necessary as the Red Devils bid to eradicate their defensive mistakes.
“Sometimes you can’t just keep churning out chequebook after chequebook, buying player after player, sometimes it’s down to the coaching and analysing things and looking at the finer details,” he said on his Five YouTube Channel.
Solskjær: "Both goals should've been closed down quicker – the first one definitely and the second one we should manage to stop the cross. You always look at goals conceded, what we should've or could've done better." #mulive [bt]
— utdreport (@utdreport) December 26, 2020
“I’m not saying the coaching staff aren’t doing that at Man United, because I know they are, but sometimes there are little nuances, little things you might think about or forget or you don’t think about at the time.“
Ferdinand recalled an example from his own playing days in which he discussed his positioning with goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, insisting that building relationships and understanding with defensive teammates is paramount to finding solidity.
“Edwin van der Sar text me during the [Leicester] game, when the goal went in and McTominay didn’t go out to close him [Harvey Barnes] down and Bailly was behind him,” he added.
“And it took me back to when we used to play and I would always say to Edwin, ‘When you see me going out to someone one-v-one, or on the edge of the box, I will try and stand in a certain place and wherever I stand, you stand opposite to it, you react off where I stand’.
“So if I was going out to say, Fernando Torres, on the edge of the box, I know he’s right-footed, I’m going to make sure that he can’t hit it back between my legs. So he can down the right-hand side, keep pushing down the right-hand side, and get a shot off, but I’m going to allow you to shoot near post, that’s fine, but not back through my legs, I’m going to block that.
“And I’d say to Edwin, ‘If it goes through my legs hopefully you save it, but if you don’t it’s down to me. I take full responsibility’. And that’s the conversations we were having.
“And that’s what players need to do. You need to create relationships, talk off the pitch before you go on, if this situation happens this is what I’m going to do, react off it this way. So no stone is left unturned. It’s in the detail. You win three points with detail sometimes.
“You go home with one point, or no points, because you didn’t concentrate or find out about the finer details and make sure you both were on the same page. It’s about working in twos, pairs, in threes, quartets sometimes, working together in little units on the pitch and getting a good understanding of each other.”