Manchester United’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka received his first and only England call-up back in August 2019 but he had to withdraw due to an injury. He’s yet to make his England debut three years later and it now looks unlikely he ever will.
Wan-Bissaka was signed for £50m in the summer before that England call-up and he was supposed to be an excellent long-term prospect at right-back for United. Wan-Bissaka’s time at the club could end this summer instead. Wan-Bissaka has endured a poor season and it now seems he’d be worth a fraction of that fee in the market. That would certainly reflect his regression from him.
There has been talk of a return to Selhurst Park for Wan-Bissaka – Patrick Vieira has naturally refused to be drawn into such reports – and Gareth Southgate’s selections at right-back for his England squad in March told you everything you needed to know about the player. Southgate lost two right-backs, James and Alexander-Arnold, from his squad and brought in Kyle Walker-Peters.
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There was no room for United’s £50m right-back. He’s so far down the pecking order in Southgate’s plans that he was snubbed for Southampton’s right-back. That obviously says more about Wan-Bissaka than it is criticism of the in-form Walker-Peters.
United boasted that they had identified Wan-Bissaka from a database of 804 right-backs when they signed him three years ago. Their hardware and system must have malfunctioned that year. To make matters worse, United also opted against signing Joao Cancelo that summer before his move to Manchester City. United have built quite the catalog of recruitment mistakes.
Although Wan-Bissaka seemed undroppable under Ole Gunnar Solskajer, that status was rightly made redundant following the Norwegian’s overdue dismissal. Wan-Bissaka’s game time has actually halved when comparing this season to last.
That’s certainly by design. United need a right-back that is capable going forward, to add another dimension to their attacks, and Wan-Bissaka has never excelled in that area. The patience he was given to improve has eventually run out.
The 24-year-old has lost his place to Diogo Dalot, who is dubious at full-back himself, which makes Wan-Bissaka’s omission even worse. The full-back position has become problematic for United. The full-backs currently in United’s squad are not good enough, with the exception of Luke Shaw. He has enough credit remaining in the bank to keep his place of him after an inconsistent season.
Dalot, Wan-Bissaka and Alex Telles don’t. The latter should be sold – Dalot can play a second fiddle on the left – and United should look to sign a right-back this summer. In an ideal world, they’d prioritize signing a centre-back, right-back, defensive midfielder and a centre-forward. Those signings should be financially supported with as many departures as possible.
United play Brighton on Saturday evening and it could be a transfer audition for the brilliant Tariq Lamptey. The right-back joined Brighton from Chelsea’s academy in 2020 for just £3m and that now seems remarkable value. England have been gifted with some outstanding talent at right-back over the last few years and Lamptey is the latest face to emerge from that position.
The 21-year-old is blessed with an abundance of pace and he’s already polished going forward at such a young age. Such are Lamptey’s attacking qualities, Graham Potter hasn’t been afraid to play him at right wing when short of options.
Lamptey is contracted with Brighton until 2025, but it’s been suggested he could be available for between £40m and £50m, which would guarantee his club a hefty profit on his signature. Lamptey would be value for money, even at that fee. It’s believed Lamptey has now overcome his hamstring problem and his performances by him would suggest he remains the same exciting talent.
The statistics are proof of that. Lamptey has averaged more successful dribbles, more successful attacking actions and the fifth most assists per 90 from every right back in the Premier League this season. He also notably has the fewest ball losses in his own half from any right-back in the topflight, while he ranks well on all key defensive metrics, which backups the eye test.
United need to address their problem at right-back and Lamptey would represent an excellent solution.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.