Erik ten Hag can strengthen Man Utd’s right-back options for free


Erik ten Hag can strengthen Man Utd’s right-back options for free



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Man United manager Erik ten Hag will want to continue developing his squad in several positions.


When Manchester United made the decision to make a last-ditch attempt to hijack Tyrell Malacia’s proposed move to Lyon at the end of June eyebrows were raised and heads were scratched.


United were well-stocked at left-back and needed to strengthen in other positions as priorities.

Luke Shaw was at the head of the pecking order, Alex Telles was available in reserve, Brandon Williams had returned from a loan spell at Norwich City and Alvaro Fernandez had been making a name for himself at youth-level. The idea of recruiting a fifth left-back, particularly a virtually unknown one, seemed needless.


However, just three months on, Malacia is now United’s first choice left-back, Shaw is keeping him on his toes, Williams is out of favour, and Telles and Fernandez are out on loan. The landscape of the situation has changed.


By contrast United did not strengthen at right-back, despite being open to doing so. Manager Erik ten Hag had barely had time to familiarise himself with his new surroundings and it was already emerging that Aaron Wan-Bissaka was not going to play a prominent role in his plans.


The former Crystal Palace man has failed to justify his big-money move to Old Trafford since arriving in 2019 and has been restricted to a paltry four minutes worth of football so far this season. With that particular statistic in mind, there is next to no chance of him reviving his United career.


Unlike on the other side of the defence, Wan-Bissaka, ahead of pre-season, was not going to be battling it out with a handful of competitors for a starting berth; Diogo Dalot was his only senior challenger and the Portuguese has established himself as Ten Hag’s first choice right-back so far this term, starting every game in the Premier League and Europa League. He has become a mainstay in the Dutchman’s thinking and is unlikely to be dislodged anytime soon.


However, despite a solid start to the season, Dalot, who you could argue has been one of United’s most improved players under Ten Hag so far, continues to face regular questioning about his long-term place in the team and his suitability. United needed an upgraded right-back in the summer more than they needed a new left-back.


It has been a weak spot in the team for several years and it ought to be one of United’s leading priority positions to improve in the next phase of their rebuilding project. Inter Milan ace Denzel Dumfries is a name that has frequently been linked with United in the gossip columns in recent months, which is no surprise considering he is Dutch and Ten Hag will know a lot about him, but other clubs have also been credited with interest.


Fortunately, United might already have a ready-made long-term upgrade within their ranks. Ethan Laird is a player that has gone from strength-to-strength over the past 12 months and is currently thriving on loan at Championship side QPR.


The right-back, who experienced mixed fortunes on loan at Bournemouth and Swansea City last season, joined the QPR on loan during the summer and has become an instant fans’ favourite at Loftus Road. Supporters regularly take to social media to question how they actually managed to acquire his signature, such is the impact he has had.


As revealed by QPR boss Mick Beale, the Londoners fought off competition from several clubs to bring Laird in, with United wanting him to make that particular move. It is a decision that is now looking incredibly sensible as QPR’s style of play has enabled Laird to bring his A-game to the table.

He is a defender who loves nothing more than to push high up the pitch from right-back and get into attacking areas of the pitch. QPR play with a very narrow system at the top end of the pitch, meaning there is an onus on Laird to bomb forward and support the attackers.

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