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Five centre backs Man United shouldn’t have let slip away

After injuries to Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, and the suspension of Tyler Blackett, Manchester United(14/1 to win the Premier League) are now in the uncomfortable position of having just one senior centre half available for their clash with West Ham United.

Adaptable Argentine Marcos Rojo will marshal the backline, despite the summer signing only operating as a left back since his switch to Old Trafford. To compound the situation, he is likely to be paired with untested academy product Tom Thorpe to face an in-form Hammers frontline.

So, as the opposition rub their hands with glee at United’s depleted defence, Coral experts have selected five centre backs that the Old Trafford outfit were perhaps too hasty in letting go. How useful having just one of the picks featured below may have been for Louis van Gaal this term.

Wes Brown
Former England international Brown is primarily a central defender, but could also have continued to plug the gap at right back as well, which is often vacated by injury-prone Rafael.

Reliable, if not spectacular, local boy Brown has been a miss since he departed Old Trafford in 2011, and his experience would surely have helped aid United’s rearguard through this rocky patch.

How handy it would have been to have an assured academy product guide fledgling fellow graduates such as Blackett, and now potentially Thorpe, through the tricky transition to the first team.

James Chester
At 25, Chester, who has been capped at international level by Wales, still has room to improve and has been a solid and reassuring presence at the heart of Hull City’s defence for five seasons.

The tough-tackling Tiger has now surpassed 100 appearances for Steve Bruce’s side, and could well have been an important squad player for United this term, considering the injury-prone nature of Evans, Jones and Smalling.

Chester is also experienced in playing as part of a back three as well as a back four, which could have eased the switch between different formations that appears to have confused United’s backline this term.

Gerard Pique
Composure, awareness, intelligence and ability on the ball – Pique possesses all the attributes that United’s rearguard have been sorely lacking for some time.

With one World Cup trophy and three Champions League wins under his belt, Pique has played with, and been tested against, the best.

His nous and silky passing skills would have been a perfect fit in a Van Gaal side, whilst his winning mentality could have lifted a defence who seem to lack confidence.

Ryan Shawcross
With an overload of skilful, technical, attack-minded players currently plying their trade at Old Trafford, no-nonsense defender Ryan Shawcross would have provided the backbone and passion the Red Devils are in need of.

The Stoke skipper possesses first-rate leadership qualities and has been an ever-present in recent seasons. England cap Shawcross has made 37 appearances for the Potters in each of their last two Premier League campaigns, something current Red Devils defenders would be hard-pressed to do.

Nemanja Vidic
The steely, strong in the air Serb left a gaping hole in United’s dressing room following his departure to Inter Milan this summer.

Fans must wonder what could have happened if Vidic had stayed for one more season, allowing the likes of Jones to slowly integrate into a role at the heart of defence, and sparing Blackett from a rude awakening to Premier League football.

Whilst in his prime, Vidic was an incredible presence and fearsome opponent for opposition strikers, his powers were evidently on the wane following a reoccurring knee injury. However, if utilised correctly, the powerful defender could still have been a solid base for United to build from.

Inter have conceded just one goal in the five league and cup games Vidic has appeared in, suggesting the veteran still has something to offer.