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Who is Manchester United’s best option at left-back? 2023/24 season hasn’t gone as planned

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Who is Manchester United’s best option at left-back?

The season of Manchester United in 2023/24 has not been going as expected. Injuries, especially to key defenders, have played a significant role in the team’s struggles. The Red Devils have had several key players on the treatment table on different occasions throughout the season, which has been well documented. Following a successful first season under coach Erik ten Hag’s leadership, many fans expected United to push on and close the gap to the likes of Arsenal and Manchester City this season, but so far, it has been the opposite. Their two rivals are far ahead of them, and the Red Devils have been overtaken in the table by the likes of Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, both of whom are having much better seasons.

Defense in Crisis: The Left-Back Problem

The defense of Manchester United has been struggling, having used more than 10 different center-back pairings. They have also faced a difficult situation at left-back. Luke Shaw, the first-choice left-back, has only played 15 games this season, with only 12 of them in the league. Additionally, backup left-back Tyrell Malacia’s absence has raised concerns. The Dutch defender has not been available for selection since last season, and has not been active on social media or publicly seen this season. According to the latest updates, he is recovering from physical and mental problems, which adds to Ten Hag’s injury woes.

To cover for their left-backs, Manchester United brought in Sergio Reguilon on loan on Deadline Day in the summer. However, his stint lasted only six months as he was surprisingly allowed to return to his parent club. With their left-back division depleted, several players have had to deputize in defense, including Sofyan Amrabat, Victor Lindelof, Jonny Evans, and most recently, Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

Also read: Injury Woes For Manchester City As Defender Manuel Akanji Faces Race Against Time Ahead Of Arsenal Showdown

Who Can Fill the Void at Left-Back?

Both Shaw and Malacia are expected to miss the rest of the season, a significant blow for the Red Devils. Man United have loaned out Alvaro Fernandez and Brandon Williams, both who are natural left-backs and are now faced with the prospect of playing a player out of his natural position. The club have already committed to signing a young left-back for next season with reports stating Ten Hag and the new owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe consider it a priority.

For now, Erik Ten Hag has a few options at his disposal. Let’s explore who might be best suited for the remaining games.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka

The 26-year-old fullback has almost exclusively played at right-back his entire professional career. Before the game against Liverpool, Wan-Bissaka had played as a left-back on only two occasions, with one of them coming in a 4-0 loss against Liverpool. So it was no surprise that many eyebrows were raised after seeing him line up on the left-side against the same opposition. However, what followed was an outstanding display as he managed to keep an in-from Mohamed Salah quiet for large periods of the game. Despite being out with injury for more than 3 months, he slotted-in in an unfamiliar position with ease and looked largely comfortable. He was active in both attack and defense, linking up with teammates on the left flank seamlessly and reinforced his reputation as one of the best one-on-one defenders in the world. There has been criticism of his lack of attacking ability, but there was no such complain in that win as Wan-Bissaka showed exceptional qualities to evade the press and find teammates in good positions.

While in the past, Diogo Dalot has been preferred as the make-shift left-back over Aaron Wan-Bissaka, the Englishman’s performance against Liverpool will make Erik ten Hag think again, especially given how Dalot has cemented his spot as the right fullback.

Victor Lindelof

The Swede found himself as the second choice behind the preferred pairing of Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane, and was in and out of the starting lineup last season. With Martinez picking up injuries since the end of last season, Lindelof has found more game time and has played regularly this season albeit not always in his natural center-back position. Lindelof has been used as the left-back on 9 occasions this season, his latest appearance coming against Everton at home. Unlike Aaron Wan-Bissaka, the 29-year-old has not looked at peace in his new role and has struggled massively. He was found out in consecutive games against Manchester City and Fulham. His decision-making at left-back has been suscept at times and he was guilty of making silly mistakes in his last few games in that role. With Wan-Bissaka returning, Lindelof will have to do with a place on the bench and wait for his opportunity should it come again. He looked far better in his usual position against Liverpool in the 4-3 win, and the general consensus among fans is that the Swede should not be used as a left-back.

Also read: Murphy Suggests Three Players Who Should Form England’s Midfield Partnership

Harry Amass

An outside option for the left-back position, and one that is highly unlikely is that of 17-year-old left-back Harry Amass. The latest product of the famed Manchester United Academy is garnering praise and attention of fans and coaches with his displays at the youth level. Such has been his showings that he has already been included in first-team training by Erik ten Hag and looks set to become the next rookie from the pitches of Carrington to take on the world of professional football. While his inclusion as a starter is somewhat far-fetched, ten Hag has made no secret of the trust and belief in his young players. The likes of Kobbie Mainoo and Alejandro Garnacho, both still teenagers, are setting the football world alight and players like Dan Gore, Willy Kambwala, and Omari Forson have come through the academy to make feature for the club a few times.

Manchester United has a history of promoting youngsters, and Amass – who recently signed his first professional contract – is tipped to be Luke Shaw’s long-term successor. He will certainly be inspired by the performances his fellow graduates are showing and could be given a cameo late into the season.

Wan-Bissaka: The Best Option for Now

In my opinion, Aaron Wan-Bissaka is the best current option for left-back. While one game cannot be a benchmark, it certainly could set a tone for the Red Devils and Wan-Bissaka could nail down a starting spot till the end of the season, provided he stays fit and earns himself a new contract with his current one-set to expire next season. Erik ten Hag craves consistency currently, and changing Diogo Dalot’s position particularly after he has been sublime all season could disrupt the rhythm. On the other hand, Victor Lindelof has looked like a fish out of water in that position, and United’s attacking output from the left side dramatically decreased when he started there.

Also read: Former Bafana Bafana Captain Urges SuperSport United Defender To Choose South Africa Over Nigeria

Wan-Bissaka could provide the best of both worlds, keeping opposition right-wingers quite as well as getting forward with ease and linking up with Marcus Rashford on the left. Man United cannot afford to drop any points from now till the end of the season and they need the most out of their players for the remaining games if they wish to make the Champions League next season.

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