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How Does Diogo Dalot Affect Manchester United’s Plans For A New Fullback

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How Does Diogo Dalot Affect Manchester United’s Plans For A New Fullback

Whilst rumours that Manchester United are searching for a new right back continue to circle loudly, Diogo Dalot has quietly made his case as to why the need for one is not as great as many think. 

Signed for £20 million by José Mourinho in 2018, Diogo Dalot has not had an easy Manchester United career. Despite showing promise in his first season, he was replaced by £50 million right back Aaron Wan-Bissaka just one year after he was signed. 

£70m outlay on right backs in just two years is questionable in itself, and for two years after ‘Spiderman’ was signed, Dalot was barely given a look in at United. 

In 2019/20, Dalot made just four appearances in the Premier League and started only one, with Wan-Bissaka’s early form keeping him out of the side. 

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In 2020/21, he was sent out on loan to AC Milan and many United fans didn’t want to see him back.

Despite Wan-Bissaka beginning to struggle as the club’s starting right back, with his weaknesses in possession barely showing signs of improving and positioning issues when the team weren’t defending in a deep block being a cause for concern, many fans had perhaps unfairly tagged Dalot as a symbol of the José Mourinho era, and wanted him gone.

Diogo Dalot. (Alamy)
Diogo Dalot. (Alamy)

In Milan, Dalot did show promise in his appearances on both sides of the defence but wasn’t a mainstay in Milan’s back four. Things looked hopeless for a player that just a few years prior had looked one of Europe’s hottest fullback talents – but talent almost never dies, and Diogo Dalot’s never-say-die mentality ensured this wouldn’t be the case for him. 

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With Wan-Bissaka’s form becoming too concerning to ignore, the Portugal international was given his chance for United, and it’s fair to say he took it. 

From the start of 2018/19 to the end of 2020/21, Dalot had started just 21 league matches. In 2021/22 alone, he started 19 matches. In these 19 matches, whilst not without his faults, he added a lot to United’s side, particularly with his quality in possession where he is a high-volume ball progressor.

His ability to operate as an ‘inverted’ fullback, essentially operating as a central midfielder when United had the ball, helped the side in all three phases. 

Now, United have a big decision to make. A right back has been a target for the club, but the budget is relatively limited and United lack sellable assets that will provide enough capital to make any kind of difference to the incomings.

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With other positions, notably midfield, being more pressing matters and Aaron Wan-Bissaka looking like he might exit, do United give Dalot the 2022/23 season to make the right back spot his own?

Diogo Dalot of Manchester United. (Alamy)
Diogo Dalot of Manchester United. (Alamy)

If they do decide Dalot is the primary starting right back next summer, how do they use him? Whoever is playing at right wing ahead of United’s number 20 is crucial in answering this. Should the club sign Antony, or a right winger of his like, it is likely that Dalot will be kept in his current role as Antony will naturally provide width.

However, should a right winger not be signed, then an option could be to adapt Dalot’s role slightly and play Jadon Sancho on the right wing.

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Whilst Sancho has shown he is more comfortable off the left, with the correct dynamics he has shown in the past for Borussia Dortmund that he can thrive off the right. His best performances off the right came with Achraf Hakimi as the right (wing) back, constantly over/underlapping accordingly to create space for Sancho by stretching defences laterally and horizontally, and providing him with a passing option. 

Dalot is not quite Hakimi and has not properly been used in this role yet in his career, but could possibly work here. Dalot is one of the quickest player in United’s squad, has an excellent engine, never stops working and at 23 is still young enough to be moulded to fit this role. 

With some coaching from the new boss, Erik ten Hag, on which runs to make in which scenarios, Dalot could possibly free up Sancho to do his damage on United’s right hand side, providing the club with an internal solution to the issue and allowing them to allocate more capital to fixing other areas of the squad. A return to form from Marcus Rashford would only further enhance United’s attack.

New boss Erik ten Hag will be looking to bring success back to Old Trafford. (Alamy)
New boss Erik ten Hag will be looking to bring success back to Old Trafford. (Alamy)
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Dalot was a bright spark in what was a very dim 2021/22 season at Old Trafford, he is a talented full back who is comfortable in possession on both feet, is an extremely hard worker with a top mentality and has displayed intelligence out of possession.

He has already spoken about what United players need to do under Ten Hag, and based on merit he deserves the chance to show the new boss what he’s made of.

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: Manchester United, Diogo Dalot, Erik Ten Hag

Yusuf Haq
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