How Manchester United can maximise Aaron Wan-Bissaka's skills
Manchester United are in a colossal mess. The lack of replacements to departed players and injuries to first-team starters has led Ole Gunnar Solskjær facing heavy criticism. However, Solskjear is building something concrete at Old Trafford. He is helping United get rid of years of baggage and replace them slowly with new ones. One such recruitment is that of Aaron Wan-Bissaka who was signed from Crystal Palace last summer for a fee of around £45 million.
Since arriving, Wan-Bissaka has made 26 appearances for the Red Devils. He has fit into Solskjær's plans like a glove and enjoys resounding success. He is famous for his defensive responsibilities with Premier League's best tackle success rate - 83%. His back-to-back stellar performances against Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City in December sums up his contribution to United in simpler terms. Ed Woodward got this transfer right.
But, there are some issues. Manchester United are known for attacking football. In modern days, full-backs are not only to defend but to attack too. They are expected to push high, dribble past opposition, hug the touchline and whip in crosses into the box. Liverpool's Trent Alexander Arnold and Andrew Robertson have set high expectations for all.
But, Wan-Bissaka cannot attack well. Whenever he receives the ball higher up the pitch, he passes it back to Harry Maguire or passes it sidewards to one of the midfielders. The English international is also incapable of making intelligent overlapping runs into the box. If he manages to isolate himself on the right flank in the final third, his crossing abilities are poor according to standards.
Where does this leave Manchester United? How can Solskjær maximize attacking output from Wan-Bissaka?
The first option is to stay the course. Wan-Bissaka started his career as a winger in the Crystal Palace youth set-up. Solskjær needs to up the training drills and helps him practice more crosses. He is 22-years-old and has plenty of time to learn. His cross against Newcastle United in a 4-1 win showed he is far from being a finished product with the ball at his feet. This option requires patience as we don't know the uncertainties of the future. Against Burnley in a 0-2 defeat at Old Trafford yesterday, he made 113 touches and created four chances. Although his teammates were not potent enough, he shows signs of improvement.
The second option is to switch tactics. Solskjær should set United up in a three-man defense with Wan-Bissaka as a right central defender. We should recall how Sergio Ramos transformed from a right-back at Sevilla to a centre-back because of a lack of attacking abilities. Wan-Bissaka can do the same. He has all the qualities of becoming a great central-defender alongside Maguire and Victor Lindelof. He can keep the ball moving, not let anyone dribble past him and be positionally aware.
The third and final option is to change how his compatriot on the left flank, who is usually Luke Shaw or Brandon Williams play. By changing how the left-back plays can neutralise Wan-Bissaka's attacking disabilities. This is how United's setup should look like with the third option:
If Shaw or Williams occupy more advanced areas of the left side of the pitch, there will be a lapse of space in the back. This will be occupied by forming a three-man defense in the back by Wan-Bissaka tucking back. Change is needed at United. This might be a small tactical tweak but desperately need to fulfill Wan-Bissaka's untapped potential.Published 23 Jan 2020, 20:05 IST