Manchester United have been in excellent form defensively of late – keeping four consecutive Premier League clean sheets, allowing only a single penalty goal in their last seven games in all competitions and currently on a run of 555 minutes without shipping a goal since their trip to CSKA Moscow.
One constant in their defence this season has been Chris Smalling. The England international has played every minute in the Premier League this season whilst others around him have suffered injuries.
He is set to be partnered by Phil Jones once again today, with the pair yet to taste defeat in the league when starting alongside each other.
Smalling has also spent time alongside Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo this season, but it appears manager Louis van Gaal is impressed most when fellow Englishman Jones is his centre-half partner. The English duo were in sync during the second half of last season.
Rojo has been forced out to left-back recently due to the long-term injury suffered by Luke Shaw. The United defence has even seen both Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia play at full-back again this season.
Regardless of wingers playing in defence, injuries causing a lot of changes, and even two different goalkeepers starting this season – Manchester United head into this weekend’s fixtures with the tightest defence in the league.
The Red Devils have allowed only eight goals in their 12 matches this season – one fewer than Arsenal and Manchester City. Meanwhile, defending Premier League champions Chelsea have shipped 23, Liverpool 14 and Southampton 13.
Louis van Gaal made a slow and tough start to life at Old Trafford last season, but since the 1-0 win over Crystal Palace on 8 November last year, Manchester United have conceded the fewest goals in the Premier League.
The table below shows the goals conceded by the top teams since then:
Manchester United travel to mid-table Watford for today’s lunchtime kickoff in the Premier League. The Hornets don’t concede many goals themselves, but Quique Sanchez Flores’ defensive tactics have seen his side score only 11 goals.
Van Gaal is without both Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial, so goals may be at a premium for his side, but he will be confident that his side can at least make it five consecutive clean sheets in the league.