A glance at the League table shows that United’s defence is not any worse than any other team’s except for the top two.
Nevertheless, defending has been one of United’s most frustrating weaknesses.
Cloughie has not been certain of his best back four since day one, when he ignored the previously consistent Neill Collins and mysteriously rejected the man he had just signed for the job, Andy Butler. These decisions were based on pre-season form, said Mr Clough.
So we started the season with a right back and a novice in central defence and a midfielder at right back. Jay McEveley came in to provide competition for Bob Harris, then Cloughie brought back Collins – but not for long. Paddy McCarthy came on loan, and was OK, but no better than what we had.
By this time McEveley had been converted into a centre half, where he was joined by Chis Basham, a midfielder. A lot of people said defence was Basham’s best position, and it might be, but at the same time we missed him in midfield, which is why Terry Kennedy was brought in. United have had good results whenever Kennedy has played.
Meanwhile, two new right backs were signed, relegating Craig Alcock to the bench when he regained fitness. Harris has been the only constant, and although he’s usually pretty solid he makes rash challenges and isn’t very tall.
Talk of height brings us on to another relevant subject – the team’s lack of it, which is a distinct disadvantage defending corners and free kicks. Cloughie has mentioned it, but he is responsible for it, preferring his team to have footballers rather than physical specimens. That’s fair enough, but there has to be an uncompromising streak too, which United singularly lack.