Man Utd is not a good place for a young center back

andersj

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I looked through the list of center backs brought in by Ferguson and I noticed most of them that we would consider a success where between the age of 24 and 27, and quite experienced, at the time they arrived.

Reflecting on it, it appears obvious that having a mature and calm character at the back is invaluable for a team looking to compete. You rarely get that from players at a very young age. Furthermore, playing as a central defender is a brains game. A player need minutes to get the type of experience where he almost instinctively can sense and smell dangers. And you probably need to fail a few times.

The problem at Man Utd is the scrutiny you get when you make a mistake. Players need to be very level-headed and mature to handle that well. I remember Ben Foster saying that the pressure of playing at Man Utd was even thougher than playing for England. It is not a club for failing.

Several young center backs at Man Utd have failed to live up to their talents. Quite a few of them ended up looking insecure and almost mentally fragile. Quite the opposite of what you look for in a defender. A center back probably have to be very, very good/talented and have a special type of ego and arrogance to handle the pressure at Man Utd at a very young age. That makes me worry about Tuanzebe. He seems like a great talent and character, but I worry that talent cant make up for lack of minutes and a good atmosphere to get experience.

Dunk and Maguire is probably the two best young english center backs today and both of them played in the Championship at 23!
 

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Jonny Evans was doing quite well as a young center back under Fergie. Both Jones and Smalling started decently as well. All of them went to shit once the managerial turnaround began. Its more so that managerial instability is not good for young center backs because they need consistency in partners and schemes while they are growing.
 

Hammondo

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I looked through the list of center backs brought in by Ferguson and I noticed most of them that we would consider a success where between the age of 24 and 27, and quite experienced, at the time they arrived.

Reflecting on it, it appears obvious that having a mature and calm character at the back is invaluable for a team looking to compete. You rarely get that from players at a very young age. Furthermore, playing as a central defender is a brains game. A player need minutes to get the type of experience where he almost instinctively can sense and smell dangers. And you probably need to fail a few times.

The problem at Man Utd is the scrutiny you get when you make a mistake. Players need to be very level-headed and mature to handle that well. I remember Ben Foster saying that the pressure of playing at Man Utd was even thougher than playing for England. It is not a club for failing.

Several young center backs at Man Utd have failed to live up to their talents. Quite a few of them ended up looking insecure and almost mentally fragile. Quite the opposite of what you look for in a defender. A center back probably have to be very, very good/talented and have a special type of ego and arrogance to handle the pressure at Man Utd at a very young age. That makes me worry about Tuanzebe. He seems like a great talent and character, but I worry that talent cant make up for lack of minutes and a good atmosphere to get experience.

Dunk and Maguire is probably the two best young english center backs today and both of them played in the Championship at 23!
Being the best CB at a time with terrible CBS is not Impressive.
 

Paul_Scholes18

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Jonny Evans was doing quite well as a young center back under Fergie. Both Jones and Smalling started decently as well. All of them went to shit once the managerial turnaround began. Its more so that managerial instability is not good for young center backs because they need consistency in partners and schemes while they are growing.
Yeah agree there. Also they didn't really fully turn to shit. Evans has done well since he left us. No idea why LVG sold him, but he made many strange calls.
Smalling has played well for most of the time even if his weakness with the ball was a problem.
With Jones I could agree about mental instability. He is very unpredictable and that has got worse with all his injuries and us being a mess after SAF left.
Although age hasn't really helped with him really.
 

Redplane

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The arguments you use to say this is a bad place for a CB can be used for just about any position here tbh. I don't think the pressure is much less for any other position. Imho it's not a wonder our academy grads seem to be handling the pressure a bit better off the bat as they already know a bit about how much scrutiny and exposure they have at the club.

The reason why SAF imho was so successful with the players he had had less to do with experience etc and more with instilling the players with mental fortitude and ability to block out outside distractions. In today s online society that is probably harder to do than ever before. In some ways I'd argue being a CB here is easier in good times as we ve had some stellar goalies over the years, as well as outstanding forward lines to offset some of our defensive lapses.
 

Bastian

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Any top club (read: club with big expectations and pressure) is a difficult place for young centre backs and young central midfielders. But if they're outstanding prospects, they can force their way into the team.

What young centre backs have come through at big clubs that have huge pressure in the last few years? I'd be surprised if anyone can name any that aren't outstanding talents.
 

Oldyella

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Yeah agree there. Also they didn't really fully turn to shit. Evans has done well since he left us. No idea why LVG sold him, but he made many strange calls.
Smalling has played well for most of the time even if his weakness with the ball was a problem.
With Jones I could agree about mental instability. He is very unpredictable and that has got worse with all his injuries and us being a mess after SAF left.
Although age hasn't really helped with him really.
We had to sell Evans. Fair play to him for turning it around but his head had gone with us. Looked terrified. Jones is just a calamity, should have gone elsewhere to get games years ago, if anyone would have him.
 

Paul_Scholes18

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We had to sell Evans. Fair play to him for turning it around but his head had gone with us. Looked terrified. Jones is just a calamity, should have gone elsewhere to get games years ago, if anyone would have him.
Why had it gone with us? He looked shit under LVG like half the squad did. Smalling and Jones played well in our golden run when we did beat Spurs, Pool and City, but we should have kept Evans too. We should have just replaced LVG anyway though and that could have made a big difference.
 

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Why had it gone with us? He looked shit under LVG like half the squad did. Smalling and Jones played well in our golden run when we did beat Spurs, Pool and City, but we should have kept Evans too. We should have just replaced LVG anyway though and that could have made a big difference.
Evans picked up a fair chunk of injuries as well and I think he got suspended 6 games for spitting at someone, which I think made LvG lose his faith in him.
 

Jericholyte2

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As others have said before the argument is not specific to the CB position and it’s due to one thing - lack of stability.

Every new manager that comes in has new ideas on how to play football and one key feature of that is what they want their defence to do. Some want ball playing CBs to push to midfield, some want no nonsense defending machines who never venture forward, and many other inbetween.

The chopping and changing and lack of stability at the club has given nobody a real platform to progress. Even Rashford was stunted to a degree by the whole, ‘Is he a no.9 or an inside forward’ argument.
 

Skills

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Manchester United in general isn't a very good place for young players.
 

Paul_Scholes18

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Evans picked up a fair chunk of injuries as well and I think he got suspended 6 games for spitting at someone, which I think made LvG lose his faith in him.
The injury part is interesting and is something that has happened to half our players though. Must be something wrong with our fitness coaching.
Keeping Jones was not the best idea then anyway and Smalling had a fair amount of injuries too. Rojo out a lot as well.
Di Maria also had also injuries here which ruined his form together with our boring/non attacking tactics under LVG.
 

Skills

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Rashford, Martial, Greenwood, McTominay, Williams, AWB, James... I probably dont need to say more to prove your post completely wrong.
Rashford and Martial have developed in spite of the club. Just 12-13 months the club was letting a manager throw them under a bus for his own self preservation and the fanbase was firmly up his arsehole.
 

MikeKing

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Good opening post. I think it depends on the quality of the talent, but I do think you have a point. The pressure at the club has it's benefits but also it's downsides. I agree with the points you raised about the CB position being of relevance to this discussion due to the experience required to excel at the position.
 

VP89

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I think most centre backs in the world will get trashed on the caf regardless.
 

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If you've got a Peter Schmeichel/Edwin van der Sar behind you, and a Bryan Robson/Roy Keane in front of you can't think of a better place on the planet to be a young Centre-Back than Old Trafford, alas
 

hobbers

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I would argue Smalling had an amazing career here relative to his lack of ability, especially his inability to control or pass a football.

Jones was even worse but again carved out a far better career here than he deserved. I don't think it's anything to do with him not realising his potential but rather he was just an extreme example of the sort of young player who flatters to deceive in their breakthrough seasons. He never had the brain to be a top centreback, all over the place.
 

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I remember Ben Foster saying that the pressure of playing at Man Utd was even thougher than playing for England. It is not a club for failing.

That makes me worry about Tuanzebe. He seems like a great talent and character, but I worry that talent cant make up for lack of minutes and a good atmosphere to get experience.
What does a keeper who likes to not play under pressure have to do with being a centre back at United?

Tuanzebe need to stay fit, that’s been his main issue this season.
 

Champ

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If I remember rightly, Jones and Smalling started playing a lot in the right back position in order to give them game time and experience.
Same thing happens often, look at the young Spurs players last night, Tuanzebe is the same.
CB is a position for experience, yet you don't get that experience without playing and making the odd mistake.
It's all about trust from the manager and unfortunately our managers haven't had the time to trust young players in such vital positions, until now it seems.
 

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I think we’re guilty of judging players by impossible standards. The likes of Wes Brown and Johnny Evans were well above average 99% of the time but because they weren’t Rio and Vidic and because they are under such media scrutiny they always seemed to be very harshly treated.

Fact is, Evans probably hasn’t improved at Leicester - it’s just that every single one of the goals they concede isn’t talked about and analysed in minute detail over and over again.

Finally, never forget it gets easier to defend the closer to goal you hold your line. The best CBs are so valuable because they can play on the halfway line and allow you to play front-foot football
 

Maticmaker

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Centre-back pairings and their experience together are probably as important as the individual's age and experience. Stability is the key; unfortunately the predominance of injuries occurring has restricted the development of 'pairs' at OT.

In the past Rio and Vidic stood out not only for their individual and joint experience but for their respective skills and abilities. Rio was the more skilful in terms of reading the game and taking the ball out of defence, whereas Vidic could 'smell' danger a mile off and 'took no prisoners' in his tackling. Both were very effective in their positioning, individually and jointly, they also had two good full backs on either side of them and the likes of Carrick in front of them.

Other than a goalkeeper, Centre backs can be the most exposed positions on a pitch, if the players in front of them and down each flank aren't up to it.

For me the reading of the game skills of such as Rio and the nose for danger and hard tackling of Vidic is the ideal combination, I don't think we have that precise balance at present, although individually I think Maguire and Lindelöf are the best two CB's we do have.
 

devilish

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First of all we need to make a clear distinction between the responsibility of a CB and that of a GK. If a CB messes up then there's a good chance that the other defenders or the GK will step in and save his arse. In such circumstances a manager should we wise enough to surround the young CB with experience and quality. That 'security blanket' goes missing with the GK. If a striker shoots from long distance and the GK is caught out of position then its a goal irrespective if he's surrounded by Rio, Baresi and Maldini or by Jones, Prunier and Shaw. Schmeichel used to call his position as the most difficult role in football. He was right.

Now back to the subject. Rather then inability to developing young CB I think its more down to luck and having already top quality CBs. If it wasn't for injuries Wes Brown would have become an absolute beast + the likes of Jones and Evans would have developed nicely with United. The second point is also key. Having a well established defence is key to success and no sane manager would break world class partnerships like Johnsen-Stam or Rio-Vidic to accommodate some kid.
 

fergieisold

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They're so important to a top team that it is very difficult for young centre backs. I don't think it is just a United thing! One area where youth has to be neglected in the starting line up is probably the CB positions, you have to buy experience.
 

cyril C

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Manchester United in general isn't a very good place for young players.

I would disagree with that. Young attacking players had plenty of opportunity and all managers tend to use them as shock impact sub. You can't imagine players like Tosic, Obertan, Macheda and Richardson etc were given so much opportunity. Ultimately it is down to the player to take their chances and perform consistently whenever possible, unfortunately we have more Obertan than Welbeck, let alone Rashford.
 

lex talionis

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United have been poorly managed since Fergie's retirement. Who beside De Gea has consistently performed to expectations for us since 2013?

Not Martial, who looked nailed on world class on Day One, who doesn't look any more lethal than on the day he joined the club. Some have developed, like Rashford, but not in a consistently upward trajectory. Jones and Smalling, 'nuff said. Anyone remember Januzaj? We've developed no young defenders and no young midfielders into maturity and at most you can point to Rashford and, only now, Greenwood as outstanding young prospects who have or are coming good now.

It's a sad state of affairs at Old Trafford, but the sinking ship may yet rise again.
 

A-man

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It’s hard for young centre backs and goals keepers to get minutes in general. It’s not only because you want to keep one pair intact. You also never sub a centre back during a match. A forward, midfielder and even FBs you often sub to rest, or to give a young talent some minutes.
 

romufc

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This is a joke because if you look at the PL, what is it 20 odd years we have had an academy graduate in the team.

In respects to CB, it is harder to get into a bigger team because generally they have 1st choice CB's and a third choice.

In the lesser teams and championship they have to defend alot more therefore grow as a CB.
 

Sandikan

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Jonny Evans was doing quite well as a young center back under Fergie. Both Jones and Smalling started decently as well. All of them went to shit once the managerial turnaround began. Its more so that managerial instability is not good for young center backs because they need consistency in partners and schemes while they are growing.
Evans existed here because he had all time Premier league greats next to him, and was under an all time great manager.
Plus we generally totally dominated most teams, who very much had a real mental block playing against us.

As soon as these factors came to an end, Evans looked utterly average.

He looks decent again now, as he's under less scrutiny, and there's a world of difference between United and Leicester in profile.

People talk about the likes of Dunk and Tarkowski as being options, but nothing is to say they'd look as good for us.
 

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Evans existed here because he had all time Premier league greats next to him, and was under an all time great manager.
Plus we generally totally dominated most teams, who very much had a real mental block playing against us.

As soon as these factors came to an end, Evans looked utterly average.

He looks decent again now, as he's under less scrutiny, and there's a world of difference between United and Leicester in profile.

People talk about the likes of Dunk and Tarkowski as being options, but nothing is to say they'd look as good for us.
Evans was really good during a spell in 2009 when United broke the successive clean sheet record and more importantly Fergie trusted him more than he trusted Pique until the season before. He benefited from having Rio or Vidic around him and a defence that featured Evra and Van der Sar but that's the ideal kind of situation for any young center back coming into the team.
 

tjb

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OP does make a great point and if you look around world football, its the same for other big clubs. John Terry is the only one I can think of that transitioned from a youth player to a starting CB at their club. Players like Varane and Pique were bought as outstanding prospects, but did not make that jump till they moved to their new teams.

The best way to develop a young centre back may be to loan them out for a consistent period of time. If chelsea had decided to simply loan at Ake instead of keeping him, they may have had a top centre back.
 

Mr. MUJAC

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It's true that centre-halves get better with maturity and experience which is why so many teams buy players in that position as they are not able to be patient in their early careers.

It's the same with keepers.

For United, given the pressure and scrutiny, it will be harder for young players to develop in those roles given their inconsistency.

It also goes in cycles.

In the past we have had some great young centre-halves Chilton, Foulkes, Jones, Blanchflower, McGrath, Moran, Sadler...but much less in the last 20+ years (Brown, O'Shea, Evans).

We have always been able to produce fullbacks and midfielders.

Historically we have had some great forwards too....then struggled through the last 20+ years but now look at Greenwood, Rashford, Martial et al

It will be interesting to see if/how that changes if Solskjaer is able to have time to build his team and we get some much needed consistency across the club.