To what extent does competition for places motivate players to improve?
Has the signing of Alex Telles in the summer influenced Luke Shaw’s recent run of form? Will the Red Devils look to replicate this with Aaron Wan-Bissaka?
10 matches since the start of December offered a tricky challenge to United. A strong squad and competition for places has resulted in 7 wins for the Reds, scoring 22 times, including a 6-2 drubbing of bitter rivals Leeds United.
Utilising squad players is crucial for title-contending teams as even the most durable players are unable to start every game.
This is why competition at each position is beneficial, even though it offers a tricky selection for the manager.
Is Telles a Talisman for United?
The Brazilian left-back, 28, signed from FC Porto in the 2020 summer transfer window on a 4-year contract for £13.6m.
Since he joined FC Porto in 2016, he netted 26 goals and provided 57 assists in 195 appearances.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer stated: “He is a fighter and a winner and will add real determination and competition to the squad.” (manutd.com)
6 wins in 6 matches in his Premier League appearances whilst contributing one assist is a clear indication of the talent he possesses. He has shown his defensive attributes, helping United concede only 7 goals in his 6 appearances, keeping 2 clean sheets.
United’s no.27 played well in United’s Quarter Final win over Everton, he kept a clean sheet and allowed only 3 shots on goal.
Telles brings to United a wealth of experience, having won 8 major trophies in his career both at FC Porto and Galatasaray SK. It is this knowledge and experience that he can offer to the younger members of the United squad such as young left-back Brandon Williams.
Shaw proving why he deserves to start.
The former Saints left-back has faced significant challenges in his career, suffering a horrific leg fracture in 2015. This side-lined him for over 10 months, missing 51 games.
In 156 appearances for United, Shaw has recorded 2 goals and 13 assists. Although not the most impressive numbers, it is his recent run of form which United fans have appreciated.
Playing on the left side of defence, Shaw has been positioned behind superstar Marcus Rashford MBE and has given plenty of support in attack to the left-winger.
Shaw has improved on the balance between attack and defence. We have seen in his career that he has performed inconsistently. Although his playing time has been hampered with injuries, it is only recently where he has played 2 or 3 good games in a row.
It is therefore certain that Telles has improved Shaw’s performances. OGS stated recently that players cannot “fake” their way into the starting line-up.
Shaw is certainly proving him right and we hope he continues his in-form spell into a difficult run of fixtures for United.
Will Wan-Bissaka keep his place?
The return of Diogo Dalot on loan from AC Milan could give Ole another option at right-back.
The January transfer window also gives United a chance to bring in a new right-back to boost competition for place.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s form has not been as excellent as it was in the 19/20 season where he was the stand-out defensive right-back in the league. He boasted an impressive 129 tackles with a 62% success rate.
According to Manchester Evening News, “Solskjaer might very well hope that signing a new full-back invigorates Wan-Bissaka in the same way it did with Luke Shaw when Alex Telles arrived”.
Will United sign a right-back in the January or Summer transfer window? Rumours have surfaced of Kieran Trippier and Max Aarons being targets for the Red Devils.
Signing either of these two English right-backs would hopefully give the effect on Wan-Bissaka that Ole desires. This would not be the only benefit of signing a new right-back like Trippier or Aarons. They offer a significant attacking threat in comparison to Wan-Bissaka’s bluntness in the final third.
Like Telles, both give Ole a better option to play wing-back ahead of Wan-Bissaka.