Portugese Right-Back Diogo Dalot has spent the latter end of 2020 on a loan-spell at AC Milan, the giants of Italian football. He joins many familiar faces, with past players Ashley Young, Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku all signing for Milan’s fierce rival Inter.
He becomes one of few former Reds to play for the Rossoneri, with the likes of David Beckham, Jaap Stam and Zlatan Ibrahimović. The Swede, currently 39 years young, is joint top-scorer on 10 goals with another former Red, Juventus striker Cristiano Ronaldo.
In his young career, the Portugese has established himself as an attacking threat, netting 15 times and assisting 6 goals in 92 appearances.
The Rossoneri signed the youthful full-back on a temporary loan for the entire 2020/21 season. They hope to bring the Italian League title back to the San Siro for the first time in just over 10 years.
His Career at United so far…
Diogo Dalot has made 35 appearances for Manchester United. His latest was a Carabao Cup win against Brighton and Hove Albion on the 30th September.
Since he signed for United in the summer transfer window in 2018, Dalot has accumulated 1 goal and 3 assists for the club.
He has faced strong competition at the Right-Back position with the likes of Antonio Valencia and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. It is undoubtedly the influence of former Crystal Palace wing-back Wan-Bissaka that led to Dalot’s removal from the squad.
Dalot’s form at AC Milan on loan
Diogo Dalot has played 649 minutes for AC Milan this season. He has started all 6 Europa League fixtures and has featured 4 times in the Serie A.
He made his first start in the league against Genoa on the 16th December where he was positioned at LB in a 2-2 draw.
His best performance in the red and black stripes of the Rossoneri came against Sparta Praha in late October. He scored, bagged an assist and kept a clean sheet, proving his attacking prowess and defensive solidity.
Dalot offers a significant attacking threat down the right channel with overlapping runs and accurate crosses. However, in order to break back into Ole’s squad, he needs to be able to prove himself defensively.
The young Portugese has performed well defensively for Milan, conceding only 9 goals in the 10 matches that he has started this season, accumulating 3 clean sheets.
Dalot has to be able to show his defensive improvements upon his return to Manchester where he will face more potent attacking forces and more competition for places in the starting line-up.
How United have coped without him
The Red Devils have been on top-form for most of this campaign. They currently sit in second-place, with a game in hand over Liverpool.
Playmaker supreme Bruno Fernandes has been involved in the most goal contributions in Europe since signing for the Reds back in January. He has 18 goals and 14 assists to his name in just 29 appearances.
Yet despite Bruno’s influence, United still haven’t laid hands on a major trophy since 2017. Ole is keen to bring silverware back to Old Trafford and their is still plenty of opportunity this season.
United are to play bitter rivals Manchester City in the Carabao Cup semi-final on the 6th January. Having been knocked out the Champions league with a loss to RB Leipzig in early December, United enter the Europa League round of 32 and face-up against Real Sociedad, currently placed third in La Liga.
United have played with confidence and fluidity so far this season, the return of Dalot would only facilitate the Reds’ style of play with his attacking threat.
The Red Devils will hope to maintain their current run of form (DWWDW) into the New Year.
What can Dalot improve on to deserve a place in Ole’s side?
As previously mentioned, Dalot’s strength comes in his attacking ability. He makes exciting overlapping runs into the opposition box, an attribute which Wan-Bissaka isn’t best associated with.
Dalot offers more potential in the opposition half than AWB. However, Ole is more keen on what Dalot can offer in his own half.
AWB has scored once and assisted 4 goals in the league in his young united career. He is not picked for his attacking mindset but his defensive strength. He boasts an impressive 15 clean sheets and an incredible 169 tackles with a success rate of 65%.
In comparison, Dalot has only 1 clean sheet in 20 appearances. He has also made only 27 tackles, significantly less than his fellow right-back with a success rate of 52%.
His main aim will be to improve defensively. This doesn’t mean that he should spend less time developing his attacking ability. Attacking full backs are very valuable and have proven to be pivotal for Man City and Liverpool.
Can Dalot help United challenge for the title?
I think that Dalot’s return can only improve Manchester United in the next campaign. The Portugese would bolster an already strong-squad. Solskjaer said in his press-conference for the match against Villa, “you only deserve to be in a team that you contribute to” (more.talktalk.com).
Dalot lacks experience, however, his loan spell which finishes at the end of this current season will give him significant game-time. He must capitalise on these chances to demonstrate why he should be part of a title-contenting side.
Attacking full-backs have recently been a staple of league champions. Liverpool utilise Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson to great effect. Bayern Munich’s Canadian LB Alphonso Davies helped them win another Bundesliga title and the Champions League last season.
Dalot has shown glimpses of a top-quality right-back who is able to guide United to domestic and European success. He will have strong competition in his position but he has shown versatility at AC Milan, playing LB and also RM.