Brandon Williams already Manchester United's most reliable left-back?
Background Image Via: Wikimedia Commons/Daniel. CC BY 2.0.
Brandon Williams' rise to fame has literally taken just over a week. From coming on as a second-half substitute against Rochdale eight days ago - to starting a crunch Europa League match yesterday evening, the 19-year-old is now a household name amongst the ardent Red Devils fans.
In last week's Carabao Cup clash against the Dale, Williams provided the spark that propelled United to a place in round four. Last night, it was his defensive stability, unmatched energy and sheer desire to protect his keeper that made the game worth watching from a Reds' standpoint. It has taken the budding left-back just 135 minutes of football to stake his claim for a regular starting berth.
When you look at Williams' competition, there's plenty of options though none are all that desirable. Luke Shaw has always promised so much yet delivered so little. Yes, injuries have seriously hampered his overall development as a footballer, but that makes him unreliable. So often the ex-Southampton man is questioned for his attitude and fitness, while his on-field positioning often leaves United fans scratching their heads. Typically, the 24-year-old is currently out injured. He has been suffering from a hamstring problem for around five weeks and that's partly why Williams was given his opportunity...
Then you move onto a Jose Mourinho favourite; Ashley Young. Now 34 and looking every bit of it, the versatile #18 has done a decent job for United at left-back in the past. This club needs to move away from relying on an ageing, converted winger in the full-back slots. That much has been evident when you watch him *try* to fill in for Aaron Wan-Bissaka over on the right. He has one skill - hoofing the ball down the line and praying that the quicker men up ahead can latch onto the pass. Simply put, that's not good enough.
What even is Marcos Rojo? Sure, you have to admire the passion and aggression that the Argentine plays with. I guess we shouldn't expect anything less from a fiery South American. Yes, he tries hard and puts in a real shift, but he's always a red card or a big mistake waiting to happen. Rojo's also another who is always spending time sidelined with injury. He'll play a few games, start to work his way up the pecking order and then miss the next two months' action with a fresh issue. Rinse and repeat.
The wildcard option is Axel Tuanzebe. Predominantly a centre-half, the 21-year-old was deployed in the left-back slot against Arsenal - and for the most part, he was outstanding. Quick, composed, positionally aware and an excellent work ethic. The only reason I wouldn't make this a permanent transition is because it's just not fair. He should be starting at centre-back week-in-week-out and moving a right-footed player over to the left-hand side of the backline isn't a viable, long-term solution to an age-old problem.
So the answer is glaringly obvious, then... Williams is by no means the finished article, but he deserves a chance to show what he can do when given a real run in the team. Okay, expect mistakes due to the naivety of youth, and there will be times of struggle, but I've always said that reliability starts with availability. Until Williams shows United otherwise, he needs to be trusted the teenager in that regard. Is he the long-term solution? Who knows, but right now he's United's best choice - even if the young man is far from perfect...