Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand is worried by Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof’s inability to play in a high line.
The likes of Liverpool and Manchester City tend to ask their defenders to go up one-on-one against opposing forwards so that they can increase their numbers in the opponent’s half of the pitch, but Ferdinand doesn’t believe the likes of Maguire and Lindelof are capable of meeting those demands:
“I think Lindelof is a good player, a solid player. Is he gonna enable you to win the league? I don’t know. Is Maguire gonna enable you to win the league, that’s the question as well. Because the thing about someone like Ralf and all the top teams now, when they play now, they play on the front foot and are aggressive and wanna win the ball high.”
“So, therefore, you need defenders who can defend on the halfway line, one-v-one, two-v-two – or three against two if you need that security. If you can play two-v-two one-v-one or on the halfway line, that enables you to have more bodies in the opponent’s half of the pitch, hence why teams do that to win the ball early and be closer to the opposition’s goal to score goals.”
“Liverpool do it tremendously well, City do it really, really well as well, Bayern [Munich] do it; three of the best teams on the planet. Everyone’s going that way of playing football, Ralf Rangnick’s style of football is like that. Can Maguire do that, can you do that with Maguire? That’s my problem, that’s my issue.”
Ferdinand is right to point to the fact that modern centre-backs have to have a very specific skillset. It doesn’t necessarily mean they need to be quick, but you have to be positionally aware and able to make the correct decisions consistently.
Both Maguire and Lindelof have shown they are capable defenders in the past, but there are massive question marks over their ability to defend when pushed high up the pitch. They are simply not comfortable when asked to do that, and Ferdinand may be correct that the Red Devils will need to look at other options in order to start challenging for the Premier League title once again.