Tabloid reports today suggest that Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a new plan for his defensive problems – instead of signing a new centre-back, he will sign Kieran Trippier to play at right-back, and move Aaron Wan-Bissaka into the middle.
Wan-Bissaka has been a success at Old Trafford since arriving from Crystal Palace two years ago for a surprisingly high fee of £50m. Since then, however, he has impressed with many describing him as the best defensive full-back in the country. Particularly impressive have been his performances against Raheem Sterling of Manchester City.
If there has been one criticism of his play, it has been his attacking contributions – still, over the last few months of the season, it was clear this was an area of his game that was coming along.
Wan-Bissaka’s youth team coach at Crystal Palace, Richard Shaw, says he would be ‘surprised’ if his former disciple is moved to a different position – but heralded his dedication to improvement.
There’s always a satisfying moment as a coach when a player starts asking you questions and starts asking to do extra work,” Shaw told TalkOfTheDevils.co.uk exclusively. “Aaron was at that point, he was asking for extra training in the afternoon so he could go back out and work on his crossing. As a coach that’s brilliant because you understand a player is really determined to improve.”
“He does have some areas he can work on to improve. Once he is more confident and more experienced, the more he gets to learn the movement of his team-mates, I think it will improve no end. He worked hard on that side of his game when he was at Palace. We always made sure we worked with him on extra crossing sessions.
“The more he gets in those areas, the more I’m sure things will come off for him. I’m pleased to see that he does seem to be getting in those areas at United with some frequency. Sometimes he hasn’t always delivered the final pass, but we have seen more recently that it is in his locker. And he hasn’t really shown it yet, but he does have a trick, he does have a turn of pace.”
United’s turmoil in the centre of defence has led to fresh rumours today that their best natural defender may be asked to move into the middle – but this is something that would shock Shaw.
“I’ve heard it said once or twice and to be honest, I’d probably be surprised if that happened,” Shaw says. “I know Gareth Southgate had Kyle Walker playing on the right of a three and maybe Aaron could play a role like that but I personally have never thought about him playing in the middle. Aaron does think defensively but there are differences to playing at right-back and at centre-back.
“As a centre-back you are only concentrating on defending for the entire game; in terms of heading and positioning I just think Aaron is more suited to right-back. Usually in the middle it is better if you are a talker, Aaron is a bit on the quiet side so I think it’s perfect for him to have a talker next to him.”