Manchester United looked like they were back on track following a horrendous start to life under new manager Erik ten Hag.
However, Manchester City thrashed them 6-3 on Sunday to halt any progress that the club had made, and the Dutchman appears to have a lot of work to do before he can think about a title challenge.
With 14 league goals conceded in just seven matches, only four teams have conceded more. Despite signing centre-back Lisandro Martinez from Ajax, Ten Hag should have brought in another defender, as the club missed out on £43m La Liga star Pau Torres in the summer.
The Spaniard is very much a forward-thinking defender. Compared to positional peers in Europe’s top five leagues, Torres ranks in the 98th percentile for dribbles completed (0.69 per match), the 93rd percentile for progressive passes (4.76), and the 90th percentile for progressive carries (4.96).
He is the classic modern centre-back and even if defending isn’t his first thought, he would surely have been an upgrade on the much-maligned Harry Maguire.
Comparing these stats to that of the United defender over the same time period clearly shows that Torres would suit Ten Hag’s style of play much better. The Englishman ranks in the 15th percentile for Dribbles completed (0.07), the 66th percentile for progressive passes (2.97), and the 78th percentile for progressive carries (3.47).
Defensively, the 25-year-old holds an advantage too. This season domestically, Torres has made more tackles per match (0.7 to 0.3), has won more defensive duels (54% to 50%), and made over double the number of clearances (4.3 to 2) showing that he would have been a much better option at the heart of the United defence than the 29-year-old Englishman.
Torres was once lauded as an “extraordinary talent” by his former youth coach Javi Calleja and it looks like Ten Hag has missed a massive trick here.
With his current performances, unless United comes back in for the defender soon, he could well have moved on from Villarreal.
It looks like an opportunity missed by the Dutchman, hopefully, it doesn’t come back to haunt him.