Just a few years ago, I got news that Manchester United had found a right-back who is better than what a certain Gary Neville was. I was baffled by the sheer audacity and immaturity of this prediction. However, the hype was there to see and Matteo Darmian certainly lit up Old Trafford with his initial performances.
His talent was quite visible and the only thing he needed to bring in was consistency and adaptability. For a modern fullback, Darmian was far too defensive minded and that did not suit the team’s demands. Now after months of speculation regarding his exit from the team, we might have finally found some concrete evidence that the Italian would be leaving the red half of Manchester.
It is likely that United might offload him next summer but they have to, in turn, bring in a right-back to provide backup to Antonio Valencia and then take up the cudgels in the long-term. The captain has been playing non-stop, when fit, for quite a while and having already crossed the age of 30, he needs the occasional day off. A backup right back will surely be on the priority list for United and here are three options the club might consider:
PSG splashed the cash to bring in attacking reinforcements in the transfer market last summer but landed a gem for free in Dani Alves. The veteran Brazilian is probably one of the best right-backs in Europe even at the age of 34 and is always an attacking threat. However, this has certainly hampered the progress of Thomas Meunier as the 26-year-old has been forced to play second fiddle to the former Barcelona man.
Meunier has his own set of qualities and is quite talented, deserving to play a more prominent role somewhere else. He has scored thrice in 14 appearances in the league this season. The lad has also created 10 goal-scoring chances and has won 45% of his average duels. Meunier is a very productive player at both ends of the pitch and United might lure him considering PSG’s uneven tryst with FFP.
Sergi Roberto recently signed a new contract that will keep him at Camp Nou until 2022. Jordi Alba and Nelson Semedo have been impressive too and hence there is little chance for Vidal to break into the first team. The Spaniard can play higher up on the pitch too and has been quite a versatile figure at Barcelona.
Under Luis Enrique especially, Vidal adapted to various roles on the flank and hence became a utility player. However, with the rise to prominence of young lads such as Semedo and Roberto, Vidal has fallen down the pecking order certainly. At United, though, he could find chances easier to come and would provide some good backup and even competition to Valencia whenever required. Vidal is defensively aware and his assured tackling helps him to keep his flank solid and intact.
One thing that goes against him is that at 28-years of age, the Spaniard does not provide any long-term stability in this position.
Now, the most feasible and likely option for the slot is right in front of us. Fosu Mensah was sent out on loan to Crystal Palace ahead of this season to get some much-needed playing time. Certainly, the young man has been trusted by the club and has already made 20 appearances in the league.
The lad is tall, strong and well-built to guard the flank. His change of pace is commendable as it helps him to tame the opposite wide-men on the flanks and hence Mensah lends a prominent physical edge on the wings. His ability to send decent deliveries into the box has seen him create six goal-scoring chances this season.
More importantly, Fosu Mensah can play as the centre back too and hence brings in some much-needed versatility to the backline. Observing his game since a long time, I can say that the lad’s playing style is quite similar to that of Antonio Valencia. Manchester United would love to keep hold of him and definitely see him as a future prospect.