As if things were not bad enough for Jose Mourinho after that 4-0 thrashing at the hands of his former club, arguably United’s best player this season in Eric Bailly has been ruled out for up to two months with that injury he picked up at Stamford Bridge.
The £30m Ivorian was the least known of United’s new signings but has been by far the best of the bunch. Bailly can be accused of being a ‘headbanger‘ but he has all the attributes to improve and become a big player for United.
However, for now Mourinho has to look for alternatives to partner Chris Smalling. Smalling was at fault for all of Chelsea’s goals and a performance like that from the clubs’ most senior defender will not fill supporters with too much optimism.
The likely scenario is that Daley Blind will move in to partner Smalling. Blind had a nightmare game on Sunday himself but the club hope the pair will replicate the reasonably solid partnership they formed under Louis van Gaal last season.
Phil Jones, who seems to live on the treatment table these days, and the incompetent Marcos Rojo do not even bear thinking about.
Marcus Rashford got his chance due to injuries last season and never looked back. This could be a golden opportunity for one of United’s promising young defenders to make their mark.
Here are three players that could fill the void.
The versatile young Dutch man is rated very highly within the club and recently signed a new long term contract. Fosu-Mensah impressed under Van Gaal in various games, most notably against Tottenham at White Hart Lane. Ironically when he went off injured, Spurs fired three goals past David de Gea due to a weakness down the United right hand side.
Fosu-Mensah can play right back, defensive midfield or centre back. He has not nailed down a specific position in the squad yet but it would not be surprising if Mourinho sees him as the ideal candidate to step in for Bailly.
The 18 year old has impressed many people in his displays for the reserve team which has led to calls for him to be given a chance in the first team. Tuanzebe is known for his reading of the game, pace and athleticism. He has shown leadership qualities in captaining the U-18’s before and despite his age, United need all the leadership they can get at the moment.
Tuanzebe has already been praised by Mourinho all the way back in July for his performance against Wigan:
“With Axel, ten minutes is enough! The potential is there, you see it immediateley. You know him better than me because you know him for a few years but if anyone sees him for the first time, ten minutes is enough to see the potential.”
The lesser known of the three but Tuanzebe’s defensive partner did make his mark the other night for scoring the winner against Arsenal for the reserves.
“Who needs Pogba when you’ve got RoShaun?” the Fletcher Moss (where Rashford also learned his trade) chairman Ron Jamieson told Manchester Evening News earlier this year. Williams has been tipped for a future in midfield but he has been one of United’s brightest talents as a defender.
Williams is known for his lightning pace which could be invaluable to United at the back. The athletic defender is hoping to make the breakthrough soon. Who knows, perhaps Tuanzebe and William’s partnership can develop on to the first team. United have lacked a steady central defensive pairing since the days of Ferdinand and Vidic.