Things haven’t gone quite to plan for Diogo Dalot at Manchester United.
Put yourself in the youngster’s shoes in the summer of 2018 – the Portuguese talent was brought to England’s biggest club by his nation’s greatest ever manager, with the only competition for his position being the ageing figures of Ashley Young and Antonio Valenica. On paper, the move was simply a dream and his path into the first-team picture looked very straightforward.
Dalot’s debut for the club further supported this mindset, with the right-back flying down the flank away to Young Boys, performing step-overs and whipping the ball in with a consistent delivery. It was a long-awaited sight for United fans, seeing an energised and attacking defender get down the wing, fuelling plenty excitement towards their new signing.
Fast forward nearly two years though, and Dalot has failed to nail down a starting position at Old Trafford. Any momentum he has managed to generate has been quickly hampered by setbacks, having missed over twenty-five games through injury since the start of last season.
The arrival of Aaron Wan-Bissaka has only pushed the 21-year-old further down the ranks too, with the £50m summer signing offering some defensive stability at the back, playing an integral role in a new defensive line that has improved significantly this season.
With no clear openings in United’s XI, transfer speculation had started to surround Dalot. As per ESPN, Barcelona and Paris Sanit-Germain have been monitoring the defender’s situation, but they also state that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is keen for him to stay. The versatile figure is capable of operating at either right or left-back, with the manager identifying him as effective cover for both spots.
When analysing the club’s defensive options, there are certainly other figures whose exits would be much more justified than the 21-year-old. Through his short cameos, we have seen glimpses of his talent, and his versatility is a trait that can be utilised to effect over the course of a full season. Solskjaer has often used the 3-5-2 formation against the ‘top six’, and the wing-back role is certainly one that plays to Dalot’s strenghts.
Perhaps Wan-Bissaka’s defensive traits could be shifted a little more narrow, granting a chance for a more attacking figure down the right. Alternatively, Dalot is more than capable of actually operating higher up the field – although Jadon Sancho is being pursued, he could be rotated in the RW role.
All in all, the youngster has a variety of encouraging traits, and more than enough to justify keeping him after just two years at the club. During their title winning seasons, United always boasted a couple of ‘utility’ men in their ranks, and Dalot could well become the latest figure to offer his services in such a manner.
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