Manchester United’s defensive woes in recent times have been well-documented by fans and journalists alike. Whether it be a clumsy centre-half partnership or a lacklustre set of full-backs, many of United’s defenders have been slandered for their poor showings.
Even under Mourinho and his style of play hosting a heavy emphasis on defensive solitude, United’s back line has still showcased some shoddy efforts.
Last season, fans were treated to the ageing partnership of Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young as full-backs. Neither were particularly bad, but both created frustration among fans for not posing much of an attacking threat in a position so crucial for successful counter-attacking football.
Thankfully, Luke Shaw’s new re-found form means United have been much more devastating along the left flank. Mourinho signing 19-year-old Diogo Dalot from Porto signalled the Special One’s desire to look for a long-term replacement for Valencia.
However, with Timothy Fosu-Mensah being offloaded on yet another loan spell, was there any need? Should Mourinho have put his faith in the young Dutchman? Let’s look:
Player Profile: Timothy Fosu-Mensah
Given the fact it’s been three seasons since Fosu-Mensah burst onto the scene under Louis van Gaal, some fans may be surprised to learn Timbo is still only 20-years-old.
The Dutchman has already been deployed in several roles throughout his professional career in the Premier League, from midfield to centre-back, right-back, and beyond. His versatility made him a useful player to have.
Though, perhaps United’s abundance of swiss army knife-type players as opposed to specialists is what led to LVG’s undoing. We’ve already seen Daley Blind revert to fringe player status and his subsequent departure due to not making a specific position his own, so it would be a shame to see the same happen to a prospect as promising as Fosu-Mensah.
After ascending the ranks of the Ajax youth system, Timbo joined Manchester United in 2014. The 2015/16 season saw him emerge as a semi-regular first-team player, but he’s struggled to reach similar heights since.
He spent last season on loan to Crystal Palace, where he made 21 appearances, 17 of which were starts. This season, he’s again been sent on loan, this time to Fulham. So far, he’s started in three of the side’s four league games, playing the full 90 minutes in all of them.
It’s clear that Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic is keen to make Fosu-Mensah a regular component in his go-to back line – which is exactly what Fosu-Mensah needs.
Player Profile: Diogo Dalot
You’d be forgiven for not recognising the name ‘Diogo Dalot’ prior to reports linking him to Old Trafford this summer.
The 19-year-old played second fiddle to Ricardo Pereira during his time in the Porto first team, but showed glimpses of his potential when given the opportunity.
Dalot only made eight appearances for Porto last season, but made 20 appearances in the Porto B team, scoring twice. Dalot also became the youngest player to win seven tackles in Liga NOS last season.
His breakout performance, however, came in his side’s Champions League clash with Liverpool. Porto kept a clean sheet in their Round of 16 match with the Reds thanks to Dalot’s efforts at left-back.
Dalot was matched up against Sadio Mane in the opening 75 minutes before the Senegalese winger made way for Mohamed Salah. Muting the impact of Liverpool’s devastating front line is no easy feat, but Dalot managed comfortably.
Both players last season managed to tally a passing accuracy of 73%. However, neither of the two managed to score for their respective clubs (Porto senior team in Dalot’s case).
Dalot is the only one out of the two who managed to assist a goal for his team-mate, and even beats Fosu-Mensah in the total number of chances he created (two).
Furthermore, Dalot edges out Timbo – albeit only by a whisker – in terms of the number of shots taken before a goal. Dalot’s tally of 0.1 beating Fosu-Mensah’s 0.3.
However, it’s in his defensive contributions where Fosu-Mensah outshines Dalot. The Dutchman doubles Dalot’s number of successful tackles per game (two) and even won a total of four duels compared to Dalot’s three.
Finally, Fosu-Mensah also edges out Dalot in terms of the interceptions he makes per game. He managed to average 1.5 interceptions per game, while Dalot managed only 1.1.
Upon comparing both players’ statistics, it’s clear to see they’re players with different approaches to their game.
Fosu-Mensah is more defensively sound, posing a much more physical threat at 6’3 in height. Meanwhile, Dalot is the better out of the two going forward. In his recent appearance for the u23 squad, Dalot was praised for his crossing ability, pace, and fitness.
If Mourinho wants to mirror how we’ve seen Luke Shaw play on the opposing flank, then Dalot might be the better option out of the two. However, if Jose wanted to play a more defensive-minded full-back, then Fosu-Mensah would be my pick.
What’s key to remember though is that both players are still extremely young. Most full-backs begin to flourish at a more mature age – with some exceptions, of course.
Either player’s youthful exuberance would be welcomed as an alternative to a dwindling Antonio Valencia. If both players remain at the club for the foreseeable future, then competition between the two for a place in the starting XI would be very healthy for Manchester United’s progression – especially if they’re to close the gap on rivals Manchester City.