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How Will Manchester United Approach Their Left Back Situation In January?

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Reports in recent days have linked Manchester United with moves for a pair of new full backs.

The Telegraph stated that Jose Mourinho will be in the hunt for both a new right and left back over the next two transfer windows, which suggests that one of those arrivals could happen in the January transfer window. 

The left-back situation is one that has dogged the Red Devils since Patrice Evra’s departure in 2014. Since then, United have spent some £44m on direct replacements in the form of Luke Shaw and Daley Blind, who is more of a versatile option in the guise of a John O’Shea.

Neither has nailed down a place, particularly under Jose Mourinho, while Matteo Darmian and Marcos Rojo have been deployed elsewhere.

It once looked a certainty that the position would be Mourinho’s next priority, but the revival of Ashley Young has created a positive headache for the Portuguese, at least in the short-term.

Since his return in September, Young, once a right-footed winger, has excelled going forward at left-back, and stole the show just last night with a stunning brace against Watford. The former Aston Villa star isn’t quite as accomplished defensively, though the biggest barrier to him being the designated left-back full time is his age.

At 32, Young doesn’t have long left at the top level in such a physically demanding position, though Mourinho may repay his impressive form with a starting berth for the remainder of the season. Another development that plays into his favour is the occasional foray into a 3-5-2/3-4-3 formation, as seen against Watford and Chelsea.

This places Young into a more attacking wing-back role, one he is more suited to than as part of a back four.

That Luke Shaw hasn’t been discussed yet says it all about the former Southampton starlet’s future at Old Trafford. Mourinho is likely to edge him out of the club by the summer. 

Indeed, Shaw has been linked as part of a swap deal with Tottenham for Danny Rose, the most prominent candidate to emerge as a potential signing. Rose had a near-falling out with Spurs in the summer, and wants more game-time ahead of the upcoming World Cup.

He remains the most viable replacement, but one issue stands between he, along with other options, and a January move. Rose is cup-tied, having lined out for Tottenham in the Champions League this season. This is also the case for Kieran Tierney of Celtic, the 20-year-old who has already been linked with United.

The Telegraph also link Jordi Alba of Barcelona and Ricardo Rodriguez of AC Milan with a move. Alba, who’s also cup-tied, is highly unlikely to leave the Nou Camp, and Rodriguez, though unburdened with Champions League football, only arrived at the San Siro during the summer. 

The Swiss has scored three goals in 17 appearances, so a newly cash-rich Milan with Gennaro Gattuso at the helm won’t part with him any time soon.

Two youth options have been touted in Axel Tuanzebe and Timothy Fosu-Mensah.

Tuanzebe played the full 90 minutes against Swansea in the Carabao Cup, in what was his only appearance of the season thus far. 

He played on the left, but as part of a back three with Daley Blind further forward. While highly rated, it appears that Mourinho views him as a longer-term option at centre-back.

Fosu-Mensah made no appearances for the Red Devils last season. He has impressed on loan at league strugglers Crystal Palace, though has been short of game-time under Roy Hodgson. The Dutchman replaced an injured Patrick Van Aanholt at left-back against West Ham, but has otherwise operated at right back and centrally.

Unless Shaw can be offloaded in January or swapped out for Rose, given recent reports that Jose Mourinho must ‘sell before he buys’, Ashley Young should remain in place until the summer.

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Author: Chris Kelleher

Student whose interests lie in sports ranging from Darts to MMA, with the likes of Golf, Boxing and Soccer in between. Closet wrestling fan and a lover of sports psychology and stiff jabs.