Brandon Williams holds off Joao Cancelo.

Williams and Brown: How to be a top defender

Brandon Williams and Wes Brown are two of the best defenders to emerge from the Manchester United Academy, and they’ve explained what qualities young players need to make it as a Premier League rearguard.

Brown played 362 times during his United career and is one of just four men who can boast of owning two Champions League winners’ medals with the Reds. Meanwhile, after breaking into the first team earlier this season, Williams has gone on to establish himself as one of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s most reliable defenders.

Speaking during their recent Defenders’ Masterclass interview, the duo reflected on what it takes to play in the United backline.
“You’ve always got to learn,”
Wes told MUTV’s Mark Sullivan.
“Every game you’re coming up against different opponents and you don’t realise it straight away, but you can’t play everyone the same. You can’t play a big, strong forward the same as a quick, tricky one. 

“If you play Duncan Ferguson, you can’t play like you would against someone like [Craig] Bellamy. You have to learn that.”
Brown expanded.
“Peter Crouch was a tough one as well. Sometimes you’d have to sacrifice things and know you’re not going to win that header, and you need to be in that position to win the second ball.

“I know nowadays people watch what strikers do and how they play, and their little movements… as I got older I watched a lot more of those individual clips to see what I could do to try and stop them.”
Brown also believes defenders improve as they get older, after gaining new tricks and skills through experience.

“It’s things like different positions you might take up and reading the game a little better, you can always learn things like that,”
he revealed.
“Then just doing things simple. As a defender, if you can win the ball and just pass it simple, that’s one of the best things you can do.

“We all like tackling and that last-ditch challenge. There’s probably no better feeling than when you do that. Concentration is also key and just doing it for your team-mates; you don’t want to let anyone down.”


Brandon echoed Wes's sentiments by adding:
“It’s all about concentration. If you’re making a last-ditch tackle it means you didn’t do something right 30 seconds before. If you’ve got the concentration and you’re solid, then it’s difficult for teams to get past you, as we’re showing now with the number of clean sheets going up.”

Brandon’s debut campaignVideo

The teenager also agreed with Brown that adapting to face different opponents is a key part of defending.

“When you get the team sheet, you know what this player can do,” Williams explained. “You could be playing against [Adama] Traore one week; you know what he’s going to do and where he’s going.

“Then the next week you’re playing against Riyad Mahrez and you know he’s coming inside or he wants to chop back.

“To succeed, I think you always need to love defending and love the job of defending,” he added. “Don’t get too overwhelmed by all the attackers and the flair stuff. Just do your job, work hard and try to improve in every area, as much as possible.”

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