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What does the signing of Diogo Dalot mean for Timothy Fosu-Mensah?

Last week Manchester United confirmed the signing of 19-year old full back Diogo Dalot from FC Porto. Though he has shown he can play on either flank, right-back is his more natural position. Given Timothy Fosu-Mensah was deployed at right-back for the majority of his season-long loan to Crystal Palace, does the signing potentially hinder the progression of one of United’s brightest young prospects?

It does not have to by any means. Fosu-Mensah occasionally stepped in at centre-back for the Eagles, especially in the early stages of the season. Though it’s not his natural position, he would still provide Jose Mourinho with cover if needs be. Whilst Dalot may have been touted by some as Antonio Valencia’s natural successor, at just 19 he will likely require some time to adapt to English conditions, both off the pitch and on. Consequently, Mourinho may rotate the two as he seeks to rest an ageing Valencia and blood United’s right-back for the future.

Another position which Fosu-Mensah could fill in is holding midfield. Whilst his passing ability is still developing, his natural pace and strong tackling ability give him the attributes to be a successor for Nemanja Matic behind two more creative midfielders.

It is, however, conceivable that Mourinho may send Fosu-Mensah on loan again this window in order to give him another season where he could either consolidate what he learnt at Palace or mould him into a defensive midfielder with greater composure and decision-making when on the ball. If he is able to develop such attributes quickly, a hypothetical loan move could be ended prematurely in order to bring the Dutchman back to United and slowly draft him into the matchday squad.

Although Dalot also can play at left-back, Fosu-Mensah’s versatility may be an incentive for Mourinho to keep both at the club (as long as they are happy to have rotational roles) and give each other healthy competition looking forward. In addition, Fosu-Mensah is yet to be given a consistent run of games in the United XI, with a very quick fast-track from the Under-18s to the matchday squad, missing the step most make to Reserve level.

Before Dalot was signed, reports appeared to insinuate that Mourinho was more than satisfied with Fosu-Mensah’s performances at Palace, and would gradually shape him into the squad. However, his future now seems more uncertain. Dalot certainly appears to offer more going forward than the Dutchman, so it may be best for him to try and permanently cement a single position. If he does this, he can work on the areas of his game that are weak, such as his tactical immaturity in defence.

If he continues to be a ‘squad player’ in various positions, Mourinho may only keep him on as a rotational option for cup games, whilst Dalot may not be given the competition at full-back which would otherwise propel both players to a higher level and could only serve to benefit the club in the long-term.

Mourinho needs to have a lengthy discussion with the 20-year old and make it clear that there are places available if he can pin down a single role and work on it. Ultimately, whether he decides the best place to do that is at the club as a rotational player, or out on loan, is his decision.

Written by Rob Potter

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