Aaron Wan-Bissaka and perfecting a dying art
Background Image Via: Flickr/Daniel. CC BY 2.0.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka has had a whirlwind eighteen months. Following a stellar breakout season with Crystal Palace, Machester United made the £50million plunge to sign the English right-back. Last weekend, the footballing world witnessed his sheer brilliance on the biggest stage.
Manchester City have been the dominant force on English shores over the last few years. Raheem Sterling is now their poster boy. He, like Sky Blues fans, expected their chokehold over the Red Devils to continue. However, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side would pull off the upset thanks in large part to the best right-back United have had since Gary Neville - who'd silence City's main man convincingly.
Making Ballon d'Or contender Sterling look ordinary is no mean feat. We're talking about a dynamic attacker playing in a fluid system that favours creative flair. Wan-Bissaka completely locked down his side of the field for the majority of the 90-minute match, taking on Sterling head-to-head in a one-on-one battle and coming up trumps. The best part about it? Wan-Bissaka has been doing that all season long.
Aptly nicknamed 'The Spider' due to the range and length of his legs, Wan-Bissaka's biggest strength is his tackling. In an era where full-back excellence in the final third is becoming more prominent, United's #29 is a real throwback stylistically. The Englishman will often look beaten by his marker, only to impeccably time a slide-tackle and win possession back. These days, that trait is becoming increasingly sparse with the onus often placed on bombing forward and delivering quality balls into the box - see Trent Alexander-Arnold...
It's the flawless positional sense, ability to recover due to his underrated pace then stupendous execution that makes Wan-Bissaka such a breath of fresh air. Heck, even the players he trains with every single day struggle to get past him. This is a young man who knows his strengths and plays to them perfectly.
United have struggled to identify their transfer needs since the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era started. It's fair to say Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hit the nail on the head here. This is a counter-attacking side who have more than enough firepower up the other end. What they've needed is an astute, watertight defence who can prevent the opposition from scoring. Spare a thought for Jose Mourinho who undoubtedly would have loved to work with Wan-Bissaka.
The scary thing is, Wan-Bissaka is only going to improve. He's still young, he will make mistakes from time-to-time, that's just natural. There's no better place to hone your trade than Old Trafford. The performances will get better. It's not just United who'll benefit, either, I'm sure Gareth Southgate is watching on with keenness. After all, having chalk-and-cheese full-backs like Wan-Bissaka and Alexander-Arnold is the dream scenario as it allows him to chop and change his tactics depending on the opposition. What's not to like?
Ironically, despite starting his career as a winger, it's in the final third where Wan-Bissaka is inconsistent. There's a hesitation in his decision-making while his ball into the box is often lacking. If somehow, the Croydon-born right-back can perfect his skill with the ball at his feet, Manchester United have an absolute monster on their hands...