Left Back Competition, who should be first choice?

Jose Mourinho during all these months has tried to find the perfect and consistent lineup at Manchester United. The midfield has settled well as Ander Herrera, Michael Carrick and Paul Pogba have become irreplaceable while Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are on fire. The defence has been an issue and finally United’s centre-back pairing is producing good games making Mourinho think twice about another potential signing. Antonio Valencia’s transformation at full-back has turned better than everyone thought, while on the left-hand side United are yet to find the right one to cover the place and do the job.

The options are there, Matteo Darmian, Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw or even Joe Riley. Let’s have a look at each one of them shortly. Leaving the fans a bit frustrated, Jose Mourinho has chosen Darmian in the left back over anyone. It wasn’t like this in the beginning as the Italian was even considering to leave as he had no space in the team. The situation immediately changed with Luke Shaw getting injured while Marcos Rojo was simply not being good enough. However, Matteo has been poor overall, being average in the defensive terms, but poor when being asked to go upfront. Manages to deliver a poor cross, a weakness that has accompanied him in his entire career, making us believe that Milan were smart enough to let him go at the right moment.

At United, Darmian has never lived up expectations, leaving most of the fans a bit clueless why he was starting ahead of others. Maybe it’s the fact that he is versatile, playing on the left, right and at Torino, he proved his luck even as a centre back. Going back to the reason why he was bought, I honestly and strongly believe that the Italian was the first player Louis van Gaal had in mind for his beloved 3-5-2 system. Darmian gets easily booked and it’s a bit dangerous to have him in the starting XI during a nervy game.

Conclusion: He simply isn’t good enough.

Marcos Rojo has been enjoying life in the heart of the defence, and personally, I think that he is the player has been mostly affected by the new manager. His abilities are often put in doubt especially when playing on the left. In everyone’s mind, it’s the Europa League game against Feyenoord where Rojo had one of his worst games as a United player.

You’d see him going upfront not doing anything right and at the same time leaving space behind, not covering the left side obligating Morgan Schneiderlin and Ander Herrera do his job, holding the team without the opportunity to create any chance, being one of those games where United couldn’t produce, and despite playing well the result would be in their favour. It is important to be noted that the defender, like Matteo Darmian, doesn’t manage the pressure really well, playing nervously not handling pressure, risking to leave the team with ten players due to his unstudied challenges.

Conclusion: For the sake of the team his place is at centre back.

Considered as one of the most talented English youngsters back when United signed him from Southampton, Luke Shaw is having a hard time right now. That horrible injury isn’t past him yet and this is holding him back, not being able to perform. People may say that Mourinho isn’t being fair, treating Shaw differently, but a sweet little reminder to anyone saying it: Jose Mourinho tried to sign Luke during his second spell as Chelsea manager showing that Jose is a big fan of the Englishman and I believe that this hasn’t changed. Fitness has always been an issue regarding Shaw and the fact that the media thinks that Shaw is being given the Jose special treatment is definitely wrong.

The criticism he is facing from the manager even publicly is deserved as he did have a hard time on the left, not settling well and most importantly not feeling comfortable. This season he has shown just a glimpse of his pace and his controlling ability hasn’t been good enough for Jose, completely understandable in the standards he is trying to set. In a game like the one against Sunderland, it’s the wings that should make the break and that’s exactly what happened and it wasn’t Luke who made it possible.

Conclusion: He needs to win confidence back and gain fitness, Jose will take care of him.

A special mention in this left back competition goes to Joe Riley, the Reserves star, who is well-known from the Academy fanatics, has done really well dragging the attention several times. He has earned first team training involvement at times and his performances for the U23’s are impressive. He might be inferior compared to others as he isn’t experienced enough to start but his determination and style of play makes him a potential first team player in the near future.

The way he makes the break in the wing is incredible and the player seems to enjoy it. At the moment, it can be easily said that he is best in his position in the Premier League 2 level. probably Mourinho won’t jump and pick a youngster like Van Gaal used to do, but Riley seems ready and his potential is huge. That goal against Brentford was simply amazing.

Conclusion: Still has a lot to learn and Nicky Butt knows how to treat him well.

The player that most deserves to cover the position is Daley Blind, the Dutch International who has been patient and wait for his moment. As it was said above in games like the one against Sunderland, when you simply cannot make the break, the wings are the only choice the team has. In the left-hand side, a patient and well game reader like Daley Blind found the solution. This wasn’t a surprise as the player unlike most of the candidates to play on the left, found the right corner to put United ahead. Daley Blind isn’t finding spaces but his last game against Sunderland surely made him stood out.

He, just like Carrick goes unnoticed but does the job well leaving the opposition no other choice. Setting the standard down to the left, it’s hard to find someone like him around. He was fearing that his United career might be over with Lindelof joining United but now that Jose has seen what he could do, he won’t simply give up on him easily. Delivering crosses in an excellent way, Blind has what others lack and that’s why he is the best at the moment. You cannot simply bench him and play Darmian. This isn’t just because he has won the fans sympathy, but Blind will really make it hard for Shaw to get back in the Starting XI.

Conclusion: Best choice at the moment, needs to get recognised for what he does.

It’s clear that Jose Mourinho has the decision to make and based on how things are going so far, Daley Blind is favourite and deservedly.

Written by Fabiola Cejku


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