When Ole Gunnar Solskjaer offered his view that he does not see the need for any new defenders at Manchester United it was about as reassuring as a colour blind train driver insisting he can always tell the difference between red and green signals.
Quite what Solskjaer is supposed to say when asked a direct question like that after a defeat like the Crystal Palace one is another matter.
On the eve of a game and with no defenders incoming, he could hardly say: “I’m really worried because my defence is not good enough, I can’t believe we have not improved and unless we bring in another top quality centre-back we are never going to win the big prizes…”
Well he could, possibly he should, but that is not his style. He rarely, if ever, criticises his players in public [his condemnation of Gareth Southgate for Mason Greenwood breaking quarantine rules while on England duty a case in point] and seems adverse to picking public fights with the people above him to put pressure on them to spend.
Whether he is pushing harder behind the scenes in a source of conjecture. There are suggestions United’s manager has not been allowed to sign another centre-back because of the money set aside to sign Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund, even though he wanted one.
Solskjaer is keen on RB Leipzig’s Dayot Upamecano, but Leipzig do not want to sell the Frenchman. He may still get another defender before the window shuts, but at the moment he is keen to convey a message of support to those in possession of the shirt. It is pragmatic, but not inspiring.
United are a thrilling team going forward. Even when playing badly, as they did against Brighton, they have the players to slice and dice. They will score plenty of goals, they will entertain and, when things go their way, they can hurt anyone.
The front three of Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford – whose sublime solo goal at the start of the second half turned this game in United’s favour – with Bruno Fernandes behind them will keep them in games. But they do not look like a team that will win many one or two nil. Champions tend to keep the most clean sheets on their way to lifting the big trophies. Runners up do not.
In defence there is a vulnerability; a fear. They give the opposition chances and they make mistakes.
Brighton hit the woodwork five – Leandro Trossard claiming a hat-trick - times and created plenty of other goalscoring opportunities. They also had three strong penalty shouts after getting goal side of their markers, scoring the first after Bruno Fernandes became the latest to be caught out by a burst of speed from Brighton’s brilliant young full-back Tariq Lamptey.
Graham Potter’s side have started the season superbly, but you would still anticipate them finishing in the bottom half of the table when the music stops next May. Imagine what the other silverware-chasing units might do, in England and Europe.
Defence is not just about defenders. There have been exhaustingly-debated concerns over goalkeeper David De Gea’s form, Paul Pogba continues to regard tracking runners as an optional extra rather than a necessity, while Nemanja Matic is not as athletic as he was in his prime.
Brighton had plenty of joy finding space between centre-backs and defensive midfielders, creating room to shoot from the edge of the area, leaving De Gea exposed and the frame of his goal rattling.
This was an important win for United after the opening-day defeat, but it was not a performance that inspired confidence or agreement with Solskjaer’s dogged support for his defensive personnel.
Having talked up the return of Eric Bailly before the trip to the south coast, the fact he once again selected Victor Lindelof to partner Harry Maguire said more than the words that came out of his mouth.
In his mind, Solskjaer played his best back four against Brighton and they were still fortunate to only concede two, it could easily have been three or four. Luck is one of football’s most powerful and unpredictable variables but it never lasts for an entire season.