Manchester United have been indifferent in the decade since Sir Alex Ferguson retired from the beautiful game. The club has not got recruitment right on several occasions, which has led to some pretty crazy defensive partnerships lining up alongside each other in the years that have gone by. Few can forget the crazy Eric Bailly and Marcos Rojo center-back partnership, or the much-criticized Phil Jones and Chris Smalling defensive unit.
The question on our minds, however, is which one has been the best? Who conceded the least goals per game as a defensive unit, and which pair has the best win percentage during their time together on the pitch? We will be looking at the partnerships that have played more than 20 games together as a pair since Sir Alex Ferguson retired.
Manchester United’s Best Defensive Pairings Since 12/13:
Chris Smalling & Phil Jones:
Smalling and Jones were a partnership that many mocked during their time together on the pitch at United, but did they get a bad rep for no reason? Or where are they that bad? The stats suggest Smalling and Jones were quite a decent center-back pairing for Manchester United. The pair won 67 games as a unit out of 120 games, which means they have a win percentage on the pitch of 55%. In terms of goals conceded, they conceded 123 goals in their 120 games, which is a little more than a goal a game (1.025).
A 55% win percentage is by no means a bad record together as a defensive unit. Smalling and Jones played together in some big wins for United over the years, keeping 43 clean sheets in total.
Harry Maguire & Victor Lindelof:
Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof are also in a similar fashion to Smalling and Jones, victims of the social media era. Harry Maguire especially has been subjected to some of the harshest criticism any footballer in England has ever faced since signing for United, but his stats with Lindelof showcase that they are one of the best center-back partnerships the club has seen since the days of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.
The pair have a PPG of 1.92 while playing together, with a win percentage of 57%, 2% more than Jones and Smalling. They also have 47 clean sheets in 132 games together and have conceded 153 goals in those 132 games, giving them a goals conceded per game record of 1.15. It’s an impressive record, and their win percentage as a pair coupled with their points per game currently gives them the edge as a pairing.
Marcos Rojo & Eric Bailly:
The most aggressive center-back pairing in the history of the Premier League, but to the surprise of many, one of Manchester United’s most effective, and not just since Alex Ferguson left the club. Marcos Rojo and Eric Bailly have a better points-per-game ratio as a defensive United for Manchester United than Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand. Rojo and Bailly have 2.33 PPG, with Vidic and Ferdinand only managing 2.23.
Rojo and Bailly also conceded 0.71 goals per game, compared to 0.77 per game for Vidic and Rio. It’s a startling record, for a defensive partnership who in 21 games together, won 15 and kept 9 clean sheets. They have a win percentage of 71%, making them one of the most effective defensive partnerships in Manchester United’s history.
Raphael Varane & Lisandro Martinez:
Varane and Martinez were a solid United for Manchester United last season, so it’s no surprise to see them record 2.07 PPG as a pair at center-back. They played a part in many huge wins for United last season, and the team fell apart towards the back end of the season after they both became injured against Sevilla in the Europa League.
The pair conceded 1.27 goals per game as a unit last year, keeping 10 clean sheets in 29 games with an overall win percentage of 62%. This puts them ahead of Smalling & Jones and Lindelof & Maguire, but nowhere near the pairing of Bailly & Rojo.
Eric Bailly & Daley Blind:
Rojo and Bailly’s points-per-game record is impressive, but it is not the best record since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. That award goes to Daley Blind and Eric Bailly, who won 2.36 PPG as a center-back partnership for United in 36 games. More than Rojo and Bailly managed together.
Blind and Bailly won 24 out of the 34 games they played together, giving them a win percentage of 72%. The highest out of any partnership post-Sir Alex Ferguson to have played more than 20 games together. They conceded 19 goals in 33 games (0.57 GPG) and kept 19 clean sheets in 33 games in all competitions. It is a startling record as a pairing, and they are statistically the best center-back pairing Manchester United have had since 12/13.
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