Man United boss Ralf Rangnick prefers Alex Telles and Diogo Dalot
Football players’ fortunes are like shifting sands and sometimes there is only a limited amount they can do to influence things.
Take Manchester United’s full-backs. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer preferred Luke Shaw as left-back and Aaron Wan-Bissaka as right-back, so regularly you could almost guarantee they would be on the team sheet.
But the new interim manager at Old Trafford, Ralf Rangnick, is already hinting quite strongly that Alex Telles and Diogo Dalot will be the way forward.
Alex Telles (left) and Diogo Dalot (right) impressed Manchester United as they defeated Crystal Palace in Ralf Rangnick’s first game as interim coach on Sunday
Rangnick will assess his squad’s strengths and weaknesses at Old Trafford
Shaw and Wan-Bissaka started their first 12 Premier League games of the season under Solskjaer, but suddenly you’re wondering how they will reclaim their places.
The England left-back is currently sidelined after blows to the head against Manchester City and Watford, giving Telles a rare opportunity that he seized.
Wan-Bissaka missed the win over Arsenal with a hand injury, but was then left on the bench by Rangnick for his first game against Crystal Palace. Dalot got the wink and quite impressed.
You can’t escape the feeling that Telles and Dalot might be a better fit for Rangnick’s style of play, who prefers fullbacks who like to cross the center line and support the attack and press high.
As United legend Rio Ferdinand said after Palace’s victory: “I have to be honest, Wan-Bissaka has a great job getting back into this team. The same goes for Luke Shaw.
Rio Ferdinand believes Aaron Wan-Bissaka (pictured) will sweat in place on the side
Luke Shaw is sidelined after a few blows to the head, but must also fight to regain his place at United’s left-back.
“One thing this manager likes is full-backs who can really play and get the ball.
“Besides the other things, like pressing, he wants output with the ball. That’s the weakest part of Wan-Bissaka’s game, there will be a big fight for him to get back on this team.”
The four games since Solskjaer’s sacking – three overseen by Michael Carrick and one by Rangnick – have strongly suggested the former manager was too loyal to Shaw and Wan-Bissaka.
Dalot and Telles always had talent, but never got the chance. Now their time may have come or at least Rangnick will spin some more. Fortune can be fickle for players.
As Ferdinand said, Wan-Bissaka looks more vulnerable. His spot as right-back was so nailed down last season that Dalot was loaned out to AC Milan to really get some football.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was loyal to Shaw, who took on the challenge of competition from Telles . contracted
Wan-Bissaka is good at tackle, but doubts remain about his future play
Wan-Bissaka cost United £45million when he was bought from Crystal Palace in 2019 and already has 117 appearances to his name for the club.
His tackling ability is unquestioned, but his ability to move forward is questionable. Too often, Wan-Bissaka will get into an advanced position and fail to produce a cross or killer pass.
He can also be exposed when out of position. Manchester City – and Joao Cancelo in particular – gave him an ax in their recent win at Old Trafford.
Dalot, who hadn’t started consecutive Premier League games since April 2019 prior to this week, has been incredibly patient as he watched Wan-Bissaka keep his place in an under-performing team under Solskjaer.
But Rangnick will probably appreciate his skills more. In Premier League appearances for United, Dalot creates an average of 1.27 chances per game compared to Wan-Bissaka’s 0.79.
Both Telles and Dalot occupied more advanced positions during the win over Palace, a sign that Ralf Rangnick will be encouraging his entire team to push further and press.
Rangnick congratulates Dalot on his achievement after a winning start as a coach
Dalot has a crossing accuracy of 30.88 percent as opposed to Wan-Bissaka’s 17.11, albeit from a much smaller sample size of games.
His average position in Sunday’s win was five yards inside the Palace half, further forward than Wan-Bissaka’s average for the season so far.
That’s because Rangnick gives his players more freedom to come forward, but you suspect the German coach will be just as interested in those offensive comparisons as who is the better tackler.
Dalot played a big part in Fred’s winner against Palace and Rangnick will have given him plenty of food for thought.
Shaw would be more unhappy if he loses his seat now. He rose to the challenge of the competition when Brazil international Telles was taken over from Porto in October last year.
Shaw’s good form last season continued in Euro 2020 with England but has since declined
The England man had a fantastic season and that form continued into Euro 2020, with Telles mainly confining himself to action in the Europa League.
But Shaw has struggled this season and although he is now sidelined at an unfortunate moment with the change of coach, he will need to improve his game again.
Shaw is progressing better than Wan-Bissaka, but Telles shares many of those creative qualities. He too can cross, beat an opponent and press high on the field.
His average position during the Palace match was even higher than Dalot’s and almost as advanced as Bruno Fernandes, as he took every opportunity to join the attack.
Telles (right) dances with Brazilian compatriot Fred after winning goal against Palace
Rangnick is unlikely to make a decision on his regular starter until Shaw returns to action, but we could easily see more rotation from the pair than under Solskjaer.
It is suddenly clear that United have a full-back and they need one. Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City have all shown how important position is in the modern game.
Full-backs must be full-backs with equal defensive and attacking qualities. United now have a coach who appreciates more than most and old loyalties count for nothing.