Section 312: Again not much of a sample size. He does have an amazing ability to come into the team fresh off of a lengthy absence and find his form quickly. Was good in Valencia from what I saw and getting games for England will hopefully have helped his situation. Our fragility at time at the back will hopefully get sorted out when Rio is making regular starts for United.
CPC: Rio has looked good in his couple of starts this season. If reports about him standing on the plane trip to Valencia are true, I'm a bit concerned about his back. He's 31 (32 in 3 weeks), so he doesn't have many years left of top-level football left in him. His partnership over the last couple of years with Vidic is perhaps among the greatest partnerships in the history of United, but if he can't get his health issues sorted....who knows?
READ THE REST OF THE DEFENSE AND GOALKEEPERS AFTER THE JUMP!
Section 312: I think I have mentioned this before but Evra hasn’t been as good this season so far as he was last season. Just seems to be lacking a little bit of consistency in his game so far. Could be the lack of a good preseason of training due to the World Cup or it could be a hang over from that World Cup where Evra’s time as France captain didn’t go well to say the least.
I expect he will get better as the season moves along. He is for me the best left back in world football. There really is no other player I would want in that position for United. I think he has 3 or 4 more good years left before a guy like Fabio can expect to get regular playing time.
CPC: Evra's had a rough few months. After standing up as French captain for team-mate Nikolas Anelka, he was dropped for the final match of the group stage, banned from French football for 6 matches and has now had a tough start to his club season.
When he's on his game, he tracks back well, he forces defenders deep into the corners, his tackling is excellent...all that by itself would make him a great defender. Add to that the he can also go forward with decent ball control and decent cross and I would agree that he's the best LB in the world. At 28, he certainly has 3 or 4 more good years in him, but I'm not sure he's going to spend them all at United...that all depends on Fabio's development. For this year though, he's not going anywhere...he's a fixture on the lineup sheets.
Section 312: Other than a couple of bobbles I think Vida has been solid this season. We have come to expect more than solid though from the big Serbian. United’s success in the last 5 years has been as much about the rock that is Vida than anything else. Great title winning teams are built on a solid base of defense and Vida is that base. Needs to take another step up in his level of play this season to get back to the commanding presence he was for the last few seasons. If he does United will be back on track.
CPC: To me, there's three players who have impacted our season more than anyone else: Dimitar Berbatov, Nani and Nemanja Vidic. Vidic, who's had to switch from the left to the right in Rio Ferdinand's absence has also taken his armband. Even switching sides hasn't slowed him down, as he (on more than on occasion) has been able to get over and help Jonny Evans when he's been beaten. At 28, as long as he stays healthy, he's going to be the centerpiece of the United back line for several more years.
Section 312: He had a slow start to the season in part due to a knock picked up early on. He hasn’t been great so far but we saw last year that this guy can be a top defender. Evans is on pace to get roughly the same number of games as last season and you can’t say that you panic when you see his name on the team sheet. I know others have been more critical of Evans this season but I will defend him all day long. He has bags of ability and will be one of the players counted on in the coming seasons. I am looking forward to him hitting his prime years which for a defender I think are a little later in the 20s.
CPC: I've been pretty rough on him and while I feel justified in my criticism, I'm still willing to give him time to grow. O'Shea makes Section 312 pull his hair out, Evans makes me want to punch a hole in my TV when I see him getting beat right outside the box. It makes me appreciate Vidic even more. One positive thing to say about him: he does a pretty decent job defending set pieces. At 6'2" he certainly isn't much taller than the rest of the league, but combine that with a decent standing jump and he gets a head on the ball a lot. Unfortunately, it doesn't translate into goals on the other end.
Section 312: A couple of appearances are not enough to judge Wes. To be honest I am not sure where he fits anymore. I do like having him around as cover but you would have to think the guy needs games more than anything. Not sure he will get them here. With Evans and Smalling in the middle and the twins and O’Shea backing up the full backs Brown just doesn’t look to be getting many games. I hope I am wrong. I think he is the best option we have after Evans for central defense and like I said above I do like having him around. I feel comfortable when he draws into the lineup.
CPC: Haven't seen much him this year, like 312, I'm not exactly sure what his place is anymore. He's always called central defense home, but plays alot of right back, but with all the youth and the direction things seem to be headed, it's not looking like he's going to be in the cards going forward. Which is a shame, really...I've always been a Wes Brown fan.
Section 312: He’s made just 1 appearance this season for United and I am afraid his time may be up. Leadership, determination, passion Neville brings a lot to the United dressing room but sadly he doesn’t bring much to the team on the pitch anymore. Should be stepping into a scouting or coaching role within the club before too long.
CPC: Gary Neville was, until just in the last couple of years, the cornerstone of United's defense. Unfortunately, age and injuries caught up to him and a couple of long stints of rehab have destroyed his form. He won't play as much as the rest of the 35+ crowd, but when he does play, you know he's going to bring everything he's got. His best asset, at this point, is his knowledge of the game. Like Ryan Giggs, Gary has been spending time working on his coaching badges.
Section 312: SO far so good I would say. Haven’t seen much of him and I haven’t been appalled with his performances when I have seen him. Looks a solid pick up for the future.
CPC: Been pretty happy with what I've seen so far, he's got some EPL experience, playing 18 games with Fulham last season...I'd imagine he and Jonny Evans are the future in central defense...we should get plenty of chances to see both
FABIO DA SILVA
Section 312: Hasn’t featured much this season. Fabio seems to be behind his brother in terms of his development. He is ultra talented though and I still think in time the Da Silva twins will be damn near automatic choices for United.
CPC: Fabio started the last match against Sunderland, which I thought was pretty interesting. With Evra not playing in any internationals, I thought he'd be a lock at LB. Fabio came on and performed pretty good considering it seemed that Sunderland were attacking down the right most of the time. Fabio's progress continues to improve and it's only a matter of time before he's getting regular appearances.
RAFAEL DA SILVA
Section 312: See above. Ahead of his brother and it shows. He gets games and although his tackling can be a little frightening he is quite a good little player. With maturity and another year or two of the best coaching in the world this kid will be amazing. He provides so much going forward it’s almost like having two wingers but he gets back and defends fairly well. He is like Glenn Johnson only he can defend.
CPC: Unlike his brother, Rafael shouldn't have too much competition at RB. Rafael is a much more capable than Brown, O'Shea or Neville. He has pace and he gives United a viable option to make runs down the right wing. He still makes mistakes, but he's young, he'll learn. I think within three years we'll have a regular back line of Fabio-Evans-Smalling-Rafael and I'm REALLY excited about it.
Section 312: After an injury hit campaign last season O’Shea has seen regular minutes this term so far. He is what he is. We know what we will get from O’Shea. He will do a job for the team, defend fairly well and give the ball away far too much. He will frustrate the hell out of those of us watching and then redeem himself briefly with a flash of quality.
He makes me want to pull my hair out at times but as long as he is a fringe player and happy with that role I don’t mind having him around. You need some marginal players like O’Shea in the squad just in case. I do think he has gotten too many game recently but it could be in part because of his height.
CPC: He's played 8 matches so far this season and while he hasn't played poorly, I don't remember him doing anything that really caught my eye, either. Maybe I like it this way, because it means he's doing his job. Unlike Rafael, O'Shea doesn't give you much of a threat down the wings, which is fine, I'd just soon he stayed back...he doesn't really have the quick pace needed to get down the sides.
EDWIN VAN DER SAR
Section 312: Not much needs to be said. A top keeper. He does what we expect game in and game out. He organizes his defense well, is good when the ball is in the air, commands his box and makes great reaction saves. He has the total package and has been good again this season. May not have long left at United though and the search for a replacement could be painful. Remember Bosnich and Barthez?
CPC: Like 312, there's not much to say. I'm glad he rubbished talk that he was retiring at the end of the year, but I think that pushes Kuszczak out the door in the process. Which leads us to the wide range of rumors on VDS replacement. VDS is tied for the team lead with 9 appearances in 11 matches, but in years past that probably would have been 10 from 11. Goalkeepers have a history of lasting past the age of 40, but not really so much for a top club like Manchester United. It's been a hell of a ride...wish he could have come to United after Schmeichel left.
Section 312: A capable back up stopper. I would rather see VDS between the sticks every day of the week but I don’t panic when Kuszczak gets a game. I wouldn’t say I have total confidence in him at this point though and I definitely don’t think he is the long term answer to replacing VDS.
CPC: A really good keeper in his own right and would probably feature at several clubs. He's expressed frustration that he's not getting the playing time, but he knew he'd behind VDS when he arrived at Old Trafford. He probably didn't expect VDS to play as long as he has though. I totally understand why he'd want to leave, but I hope he stays.
CPC: Ben Amos is United's third keeper, but I haven't seen him play, so I can't say anything about him...I just didn't want anyone to think we'd forgotten him.