United have announced that they have signed Portuguese teenager Jose Diogo Dalot Teixera, commonly known as Diogo Dalot from FC Porto having triggered the players release clause. He is the second player to join in a matter of days after the announcement of the agreement to sign Fred on the 5th of July. Dalot has just turned 19 years of age and has only played a handful of first team games deputising for the injured Alex Telles at left back. Diogo is a fullback but he’s really a right back rather than a player for the left.
Given his youth and relative inexperience the player must be seen as one for the future and an understudy for Valencia at this point. It is safe to assume that Jose Mourinho’s knowledge of youth football in his home country and his contacts in the game there are factors which gave United the confidence to pay the players buyout clause and the manager the confidence to proclaim perhaps extravagantly that the club has signed the best young fullback in the world.
But why a fullback? Why a right back?
United had a very good defensive record, at least statistically last year but the defence is unquestionably greater than the sum of its parts. One still feels that a more solid dependable back line based on both organisation and individual player quality is needed to provide a solid base and allow the side to play a more expansive game going forward, something fans have been crying out for. Both fullback positions seem to need some attention along with the addition of an experienced and high quality centre back to act as the main defensive leader.
In the case of the fullbacks you could make a case that United need different things on either side. On the right Valencia has been the established right back for several years now whilst on the left Ashley Young has only recently fully established himself as first choice. Both players are now in their 30’s and whilst United have a young fullback, the not always in favour Shaw on the left what is clearly needed on the right is a younger player to challenge Valencia. Yes United do have other options on the right but none with the player profile characteristics Mourinho looks for in a fullback. In that context the transfer makes sense. On the left he may favour the recruitment of a more established player to challenge Shaw and make him focus on making the breakthrough. The question is will Dalot provide challenge to the experience on each side or will Shaw get another chance to step up there?
But what can Dalot bring tactically? He is a big strong and powerful fullback who has shown himself to be sound defensively whilst confident enough to get forward and stretch the opposition in wide areas when the opportunity presents. He is a player who will look to beat opponents with pace and power rather than trickery and in this he is a little bit like Valencia.
Crucially and this is a bonus he is a good crosser of the ball, a weakness for United in recent years, (all too often crosses are delayed or fail to beat the first man). Over the years Mourinho’s teams have regularly relied on fullbacks to provide attacking width and United currently have any number of attackers or advanced midfield players who like to either play narrow or naturally come inside from a wider starting position; think Martial, Rashford, Mata, Lingard, Sanchez, all these players leave space on the outside as United attack on a narrow front.
The hope is that Dalot can pick his moments to stretch defences by pushing forward into these wide spaces and provide a higher quality delivery. Lets hope he can, so let’s say Diogo Dalot, welcome to Old Trafford.