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Manchester United rolling squad review: Defenders

With Manchester United not playing any football for a couple of weeks, we're taking a look at the state of the squad. Today, defenders.

Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Yesterday's entry on goalkeepers is here.

Chris Smalling

According to Wayne Rooney, he's one of the three best central defenders in the world. According to Gary Pallister, he's the second coming of Steve Bruce. According to Louis van Gaal, he's the future captain of Manchester United, and he's called "Mike". We at the Busby Babe aren't quite as giddy about him as that -- while he wins most of his individual battles, he's still the de facto leader of a defence that has, at times, looked pretty shaky* -- but he's definitely Manchester United's best defender and he's definitely playing very well. Carry on, please.

* Yes, we know United haven't conceded in five. We refer you to Arsenal.

Phil Jones

Having worked his way through every injury, ailment and malady known to humankind — except housemaid's knee — Jones might have expected to return to the United squad as third choice behind the Daley Blind Experiment. But since then, he and Blind have alternated, as Van Gaal looks to take advantage of their differing strengths (or, more likely, offset their differing weaknesses). And he's been fine in an unspectacular sort of a way.

Marcos Rojo

The left back who came in from the cold. Two months ago, Rojo and Van Gaal were apparently at loggerheads. Whatever the hell a loggerhead* is, they were at two of them, one each, and they also apparently weren't getting on. But the brutal shortening of Luke Shaw left a space open in the team, and Van Gaal can't pick his ego to play in defence**. Rojo doesn't bring the all-round excellence of the youngster, but he's decent enough as a defender, engagingly eager and his crossing oscillates violently between the ridiculous and the sublime. Also, he is definitely going to smack one in from about thirty yards out at some point soon. You heard it here first.

* Looked it up. It's a kind of sea turtle.

** He has almost certainly tried.

Daley Blind

After a few months of the Daley Blind Experiment, we're comfortable in seeing him as a useful but not undroppable central defender, and still a useful member of the squad. Whether he plays instead of Jones is going to be a question of approach and opposition, while a place at left back or in midfield is probably only going to come about if somebody picks up an injury.

Ashley Young

Probably United's preferred second-choice right back, possibly United's preferred second-choice left back, and useful further forward as well. A United squad that doesn't contain Young is now a slightly worrying thing. That still feels weird.

Luke Shaw

Was seen without crutches! Might be back before the end of the season! That's nice!

Paddy McNair

Got injured in the last international break and makes his return just in time for this one. So, nothing much to report. Probably needs to start playing football at some point.

Matteo Darmian

Though his performances have dropped off slightly following a strong start to the season -- which is fine, since all players deserve time to adjust and all players adjust at different speeds and in different ways -- he is, in Shaw's absence, United's best specialist full back. And with Valencia out, he'll be given the opportunity to show it.

Axel Tuanzebe

Currently has more glowing profiles in the Manchester Evening News than he does appearances for the first team. That, by the sounds of things, might change.

Cameron Borthwick-Jackson

Whatever happens in the rest of his career, he'll be able to call himself a Manchester United player. That must feel pretty good.

Antonio Valencia