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Newcastle defeat once again highlighted Manchester United's biggest problem this season

On May 6 2012, Manchester United claimed a 2-0 win over Swansea City in their penultimate game of the campaign.

At right back was Phil Jones, while Chris Smalling featured at centre-back as Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia occupied the wings.

Six years on and, somewhat astonishingly, the aforementioned quartet are lining up as Manchester United’s first choice back four, despite the club making 22 signings in the post-Ferguson era.

Defeat at St James’ Park on Sunday saw them line up together and their collective display – inert, predictable, lacking in zip or discipline – once again highlighted just how absurd it is that, for all the millions spent in trying to evolve this side, nothing of note has been done to advance United’s back four over such a prolonged period of time.

Mourinho fielded the same back four against both Huddersfield Town and Tottenham Hotspur earlier this season and lost, along with witnessing perhaps United’s two worst performances of their Premier League campaign.

That last bit is crucial. In a modern game evolving faster than our senses can comprehend, United have been caught with cold feet and suffered the consequences for failing to evolve in the same way as Manchester City, who only have one semi-first choice defender – captain Vincent Kompany – still at the club since May 2012.

Out of the 22 signings made by United since 2013, only five have been defenders. And what has transpired as a result is a kind of tale of two cities in Mourinho’s side: an attack comprising of diverse, fresh, dynamic options and a back four painfully out of step with the times.

They have hardly been awful. In fact, no team has more clean sheets than United this season. But the problem lies less with objective results and more with the symbolic message it sends.

While Man City, who could be champions in just six games, have spent nearly £180m on defensive reinforcements over the past year, United are still calling on the old guard to come up with modern day solutions.

A defensive overhaul, one matching the comprehensiveness of United’s attacking additions in recent years, desperately needs to begin in the summer.

Arsenal’s embarrassing away record highlighted again following NLD loss

Discussion surrounding the shocking away form of Arsenal in the Premier League this season has come to the fore once again this afternoon, following the club’s defeat at the hands of Tottenham in the North London derby.

Matchup

The Gunners travelled to Wembley today on the back of a morale-boosting 5-1 victory over Everton last weekend, with January signings Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang both impressing in their first starts for the club.

Tottenham, meanwhile, dispatched of Newport County by 2 goals to nil in the FA Cup 4th round during the week, with their last Premier League outing having seen Mauricio Pochettino’s men twice fight back from behind to secure a remarkable point at Anfield versus Liverpool.

First-half

The early goings of today’s crunch derby saw Tottenham control the majority of the possession, with Arsenal looking dangerous on the break on a couple of occasions.

Chances of note were few and far between over the opening half-hour, aside from a Harry Kane header nodded disappointingly over the bar by the Englishman.

However, there was a major question of what could have been for Arsenal with just 11 minutes on the clock, as Jack Wilshere’s gorgeous slide-rule pass sent Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang clean through on the home side’s goal.

The Gabonese hitman looked to have timed his run perfectly, only for the linesman to raise his flag for offside.

Immediate replays showcased the fact that Aubameyang looked to have been onside, though, with Jan Vertonghen having been stood ever so slightly behind the rest of Tottenham’s defensive line.

Opener

The second-half saw Spurs come out in even more dominant fashion, with Mauricio Pochettino’s men putting their fierce rivals on the back foot from the off.

And the hosts’ superiority in possession didn’t take long to pay off, as Ben Davies wicked delivery from the left saw Harry Kane rise highest to nod a wonderful header into the bottom-left corner of Petr Cech’s goal.

There was controversy surrounding the nature of the header, though, as many pointed to the fact that Kane had used marker Laurent Koscielny to aid his jump.

Result

Whatever the case may have been, it was difficult to argue with the fact that Spurs deserved the lead, with Pochettino’s men going on to create a number of further clear-cut chances before the full-time whistle.

Kane’s strike proved crucial in the end, though, with Tottenham earning the bragging rights in the final edition of the North London derby this season.

Struggles on the road

The result has since garnered attention for plenty of reasons, with the frankly embarrassing form of Arsenal on their travels having come to the fore across social media once again:

Henrikh Mkhitaryan on the main difference between Wenger & Mourinho

Alexis Sanchez details why he left Arsenal for Man United