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MANAGER: The clean sheets are massive for them

Paul Simpson on a solid back line and adapting to a change of formation

3 March 2022

United’s new-look central defensive trio battled out a second consecutive clean sheet against Rochdale on Tuesday night and they received deserved praise from manager Paul Simpson in his post-match press conference for the way they’re handling a pressure situation.

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3 March 2022

“The three centre halves dealt with the aerial threat brilliantly, they covered round for each other and they fought for everything,” he said.

“They’re getting a good understanding and I think that’s now Morgan with 18 starts and Dynel with seven. It’s not a lot when you’re talking about experienced players.

“They look solid at the back and this is a great learning environment for them to work in, and hopefully they’ll keep improving as we go along.

“The clean sheets are massive for them. I’ve only seen little bits of Dynel when he was at Chelsea. Chelsea teams don’t often have to do that sort of defending because they probably have 80 or 90 per cent possession.

“I’ve seen Morgs play for Everton, and he’s been part of my England teams, so I know what he’s capable of in terms of that emergency defending.

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“And I thought Jon Mellish was outstanding as well. He set the tone with his front foot stepping in, intercepting, heading things, there’s a little bit of calmness about him.

“I think they’ve done really well, and really well as a three, we need to wrap them up in cotton wool and keep them right.

“We’ll get some reinforcements coming back hopefully over the next couple of weeks, and might give us the chance to be able to rest, rotate, whatever it is.

“I would imagine if you ask any of them three tonight, none of them will want to be rested.”

On the unchanged formation and starters, he added: “I think there’s only Joe Riley who’s playing in a position that’s not his natural one.

“If he was to give you his favourite position he’s probably the only one, but he’ll get better and he looks more comfortable, so he’s starting to build more confidence.

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“We’ve got square pegs in square holes at the moment. I think that’s what you’ve got to have. That’s where they’re comfortable and can go and express their own game.

“Hopefully we’ll still be able to continue putting the square pegs in the square holes and it will see us through.”

How important is the buy-in from the group to the change in formation and approach?

“I don’t look at it as a buy-in to that, I look at it as a buy-in to each other,” he insisted. “They’re getting that belief in each other, they’re building trust and I think if we can develop that even more in possession then we’ll see some good things.

“For that we need to be calmer and more controlled, then I think we’ll be even better and more effective. We’ve seen a solid defence and a goalkeeper - Mark Howard made some top saves, two one-on-ones and one that was going in that he palmed away.

“If you’ve got that and midfielders who can control and pass well, and then there are forward players with pace and strength, then you really have got half a chance.

“I’m really waiting to see Kristian Dennis get a chance, because he’s a goal scorer. I want to see him get a really good opportunity and that’ll be a good reward for the incredible work he’s doing for us.”

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