Identifying which position needs strengthening most at Manchester United this summer might be as difficult as attempting to find a needle in a haystack.
Too many players, in far too many positions, have failed to live up to the required standard at Old Trafford this season and the size of the challenge awaiting new manager Erik ten Hag this summer is an enormous one. The Dutchman needs to try and use the transfer market to full effect, in terms of sourcing both new additions and offloading players that have no part to play in his plans of him moving forward.
While the defensive side of the midfield operation is a gray area for United, meaning a lot of attention needs to be focused on that particular department, the right-back berth also needs closely monitoring. Despite drawing up a list of 804 right-backs before signing Aaron Wan-Bissaka in the summer of 2019, the former Crystal Palace man has failed to live up to the billing, failing to nail down the position ahead of Diogo Dalot and make it his own of him.
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Wan-Bissaka and Dalot have frequently alternated at right-back since Ralf Rangnick took charge in December, highlighting United’s need for a new first choice option. Wan-Bissaka has started eight times in all competitions under the German, whereas Dalot has started on 19 occasions during Rangnick’s tenure, highlighting the Reds’ need for stability in that area of the pitch.
Nowadays, modern-day full-backs are expected to produce the same kind of qualities as wingers – assists and goals. For example, Chelsea ace Reece James and Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold produce far superior numbers in an attacking sense to what Wan-Bissaka and Dalot do.
It is why strengthening the right-back berth ought to be amongst United’s leading priorities this summer, in a transfer window that is expected to give the club a very different look ahead of the start of next season. Wan-Bissaka has failed to justify his £50million transfer fee and has failed to kick-on, whilst Dalot, despite raising his game in recent months, is not the long-term solution.
Considering Dalot has shown glimpses of what he can offer from right-back, even without registering a single assist this season, it is clear that United need to invest in a right-back that is comfortable bombing forward, capable of supplying crosses, and boasting a genuine threat at the top end of the pitch out wide. Therefore, they should look no further than trying to lure Inter Milan right-back Denzel Dumfries to Old Trafford.
The Netherlands international, who was exceptional at the European Championship last summer, scoring two goals along the way, offers everything that you could wish for in a modern-day full-back, so much so that he has spent much of this season playing that high up the pitch he has often been deployed as a right-midfielder. In his debut season for Inter, he has scored five goals and grabbed seven assists, meaning he has registered the same amount of direct goal contributions this season alone as Wan-Bissaka has managed in his entire United career.
Dumfries joined Inter last summer after impressing at the Euros and for PSV Eindhoven over a three-year period. He established himself as the best right-back in the Eredivisie during that time and he raised his game on the international stage last summer.
Signed for just €12.5million, it seemed like a bargain buy at the time and even more so now with the numbers he has produced in his maiden season in Italy. The chances of United signing him for a similarly-modest fee are non-existent.
As soon as a Premier League club expresses an interest in a player, particularly one of the bigger clubs, the fee immediately increases. But as long as Inter don’t get into the realms of demanding silly figures, he is a signing that United ought to seriously consider, as he would be a certain upgrade on their current right-back options and would provide the threat from right-back. back they have been longing for, and it is claimed that they are.
According to a report by The Sun, Dumfries ‘looks set’ to move to the Premier League and link up with Ten Hag. Although he never played for Ajax, Ten Hag will have been acutely aware of the qualities that the 25-year-old brings to the table, not least his power and pace from him, from his experience of going up against him.
His time at PSV saw him rack up 36 direct goal contributions in 124 games, which is a terrific return for a right-back. Depending on Inter’s demands, United should not need much convincing to turn to him to solve their right-back conundrum after failing with their £50m gamble.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.