Throughout the week, QPR and Ireland defender Ryan Manning has been linked with a move to a host of Premier League clubs.
Manning, who is out of contract in the summer, has worked his way back into the starting XI at Loftus Road following last season’s loan spell at Rotherham United and has looked extremely impressive.
A midfielder by trade, Manning was switched to the left-back position by manager Mark Warburton at the beginning of the campaign and he has excelled thus far, starting every game as the club sit 9th in the Championship.
Manning may be only 23 years of age but this will be his fourth full season in the Championship having played 18, 19 and 27 times in the division over the past few seasons.
Despite being a young and versatile player, Manning has never been able to work his way into the senior Irish setup under either Mick McCarthy or Martin O’Neill before that – only making one provisional squad under the latter.
As a midfielder, Manning was strong but one can be excused for including him in previous Irish squads given the level of competition that the position so frequently comes with.
Since his move to left-back though, he has taken his game to the next level, and save for Enda Stevens, it is a position that Ireland are currently quite light in.
So how come Manning has been overlooked so often, even when Stevens found himself suspended for the Georgia game? His statistics this season appear to suggest that McCarthy is making a mistake by not including him in his squad, given his rich vein of form.
According to Transfmarkt.com, Manning made just nine appearances at left-back for either QPR, Rotherham or Galway United prior to this season.
Having begun as a midfielder and played a number of games in the League of Ireland in an attacking role, it would be understandable if Manning’s adjustment to a purely defensive role was causing him issues.
That however, certainly hasn’t been the case.
He has featured in all but six minutes of Championship action this season according to WhoScored.Com and has made 15 interceptions in his 11 appearances.
That’s the second most of any Irish player in the division (only Derrick Williams with 16 has higher) and the fifth most of any left-back in the division.
He’s also proven himself notoriously difficult to get past, having completed 93% of his attempted tackles and has only being dribbled past three times in 11 games – 0.3 times per game.
In context, that’s within the top 25 (23rd) of all players in the Championship and among the top three for his position.
He’s also won possession 77 times according to Opta – the highest of any player at his club.
Although his defensive work has been stellar, it’s as an attacking left-back where the 23-year-old has really stepped up a level.
He is yet to find the net in the league, but as a creator he is shining, having registered three assists already this campaign, the most from a left back and joint most from a defender in the division in addition to the most by any Irish player in the Championship.
Manning has also completed 25 key passes this season (or 2.3 per game), 11 of them long and 14 short, which is the most of any Irish player in the Championship, and the fifth most in the whole of the division
This leads us nicely into the 23-year-old’s deliveries – potentially the strongest part of his game and something that could be a huge asset to Ireland at international level.
Manning has completed the most successful crosses in the whole of the Championship (29) as well as the third most accurate corner kicks in the division (24) behind only Stewart Downing and Matt Phillips.
Just imagine what Shane Duffy could do with deliveries like that?
In addition Manning also leads his club, QPR in the following, according to Opta;
Most chances created – 36
Most fouls won – 30
Most crosses – 111
The 23-year-old has had one hell of a start to the Championship season.
Enda Stevens may be excelling at a higher level and deserving of the spot as first choice left-back for Ireland but it’s getting harder and harder for McCarthy to ignore the impressive performances of Manning.
With Greg Cunningham set for a spell on the sidelines and Matt Doherty sure to slot in at right-back against Denmark given Seamus Coleman’s suspension, McCarthy suddenly requires cover at left-back.
Manning’s attacking ability and quality from wide could add that extra something to an Irish side in desperate need of a boost ahead of their crucial Danish decider.