Manchester United’s fullback situation currently seems strange, because nobody knows who is going to play. Antonio Valencia has nailed down a place at right-back, but he is out injured, and Matteo Darmian seems to be better at left-back, which has caused a few problems. Jose Mourinho seems reluctant to use youth in the form of Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Joe Riley, which explains Ashley Young’s inclusion at right-back against Swansea.
Mourinho hasn’t done anything to prove that he uses youth since joining, which makes it even stranger that he reportedly wants Benjamin Henrichs, a young fullback from Bayer Leverkusen. Henrichs, who has played on both sides of defence for Leverkusen this season, earned two assists from eight appearances at right-back, which shows the attacking prowess he may be able to offer at United. That being said, fullback is more of a question than an answer right now at United.
Henrichs is undoubtedly a talented defender, as shown by his average WhoScored rating of 7.39 this season, and he has particularly impressed for Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League, playing every minute of the competition for them so far. Asked about interest in moving to different clubs, he simply pointed out that interest was shown by English sides after an under-19 international match in which he played.
“English clubs were interested after a national match in England in September 2015 with the German U-19s.”
The German fullback even earned his first call-up during this international break, which shows how highly he is regarded in his home country. While his quality and potential is clear for the future, though, I struggle to see how he would fit into the current United setup, simply because I want to see the club’s current fullbacks given a chance.
Joe Riley and Timothy Fosu-Mensah have started a combined two matches at fullback this season, with both going to the latter, and Luke Shaw is also a player for the future at United. If the side was to sell midfielders such as Marouane Fellaini and Bastian Schweinsteiger, and then make time for Fosu-Mensah in the midfield, perhaps Henrichs would be the right option to succeed Antonio Valencia, who is bound to lose his form at some point. Fosu-Mensah and Riley are clearly of the necessary quality to be playing in the first-team, and yet they are not, and with Shaw underperforming and Ashley Young stepping in at right-back, questions need to be asked about Mourinho’s use of the players who are already at the club.
To conclude, while Henrichs may be a good purchase, other questions need to be answered at the club before this deal can go through. United is a club of promoting youth, and no player has been promoted to the senior side in Mourinho’s tenure, so perhaps he needs to remove the underperforming fringe players to make room for youth before going out to buy more players. United’s senior squad currently has 26 players, which is a ridiculously high number, before the youth ranks of talent. Cameron Borthwick-Jackson was sent out on loan because there was no room for him to receive playing time in the first team, so why is there playing time for a player like Henrichs, even if he is a better footballer?