Manchester United have an array of options to play in the full back position. Jose Mourinho has received criticism for his selection in these areas, but who should Mourinho choose to play fullback?
Let’s start at right-back; the two outstanding candidates to play here are Antonio Valencia and the versatile Matteo Darmian who can also play at left-back. My personal choice to play at right-back last season was, perhaps controversially Guillermo Varela. I thought that Varela was strong defensively and posed a threat going forwards. I had always been impressed with him when playing for the Under 21’s and believed that he took his chance when called up to the first team by Louis van Gaal, obviously, Varela is now on loan at Eintracht Frankfurt so he won’t be playing for United this season.
Valencia and Darmian are two juxtaposing full backs who both have positives and drawbacks of being chosen by Mourinho. Valencia is a great attacking full-back, evidenced by the fact he was a winger when he signed to the club. It is now almost three years since Valencia last started a game as a winger, but he hasn’t lost his attacking instincts. Squawka give Valencia an attack score of 4.97 per game, whilst Darmian receives a score of -1.25! Valencia also makes 1.09 key passes per game, and Darmian only makes 0.25. This shows that when Mourinho decides to play an attacking side Valencia must be selected over the Italian. Defensively the two’s stats are similar. Valencia makes 1.91 tackles per game and Darmian makes two, and Valencia makes two interceptions per game, whilst Darmian only makes 1.75. Darmian is just as good as Valencia defensively, but he lacks in attack. It makes no sense to start Darmian in a game where United need to attack, and because the two are similar defensively it simply makes sense for Valencia to be United’s first choice right-back.
At left-back United’s main contenders for the position are Daley Blind and Luke Shaw. You would assume that Shaw is a great attacking full-back due to the way that he bombs forwards, but it turns out that Blind is better going forwards than Shaw. Blind has registered two assists in the Premier League this season whilst Shaw has none. Blind also makes 1.30 key passes per game and Shaw only makes 0.57. Squawka also gives Blind an attacking score of 8.11 per game whilst Shaw only gets 5.44. Blind is also better defensively than Shaw according to Squawka, he receives a defence score of 20.16 per game, and Shaw receives a defensive score of just 8.06. Blind wins 1.60 tackles per game whilst Shaw only wins 0.57, Blind also makes 2.3 interceptions per game, Shaw just 1.71. This proves that although not an orthodox left-back he is certainly a great one, and one who has been better than Shaw this season. I’m not suggesting that Shaw doesn’t have the potential to become the best left-back in the world one day, but at the moment Blind is outperforming the young Englishman who isn’t currently warranting his place in the side.