Aaron Wan-Bissaka was caught cold for Manchester United in the first half in Leizpig.
Playing in an occasionally used 3-4-1-2 formation, Wan-Bissaka coped poorly with Angelino, and his weakness in dealing with crosses from the left-flank was also exposed.
It is quite possible that Wan-Bissaka simply needs a break, as he is rarely rotated by United.
This is where under-utilised asset Dan James might come in useful.
If United decide to use a 3-4-1-2 formation again, James could be an ideal option at right wing-back.
Pace to burn
The Welshman will have no problem covering the space required up and down the pitch from an attacking and defensive point of view.
James was once described by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as “probably the best defensive winger in the world with his honesty, commitment and the way he does his recovery runs and doing his back tackles.” [ESPN].
These traits illustrate how James could adapt to a wing-back role with ease, and still utilise his attacking ability.
Indeed it would actually place less pressure on James to contribute in an attacking sense, as he would have another job to do too.
Wan-Bissaka failed to attempt a single cross against Leipzig, so James could hardly have done worse.
The other element to bear in mind is how James’ pace can cause opponents to be cautious and not over-commit. Perhaps Angelino would not have been so ambitious in his forward forays if he knew James was ready to expose the space he was leaving behind him.
James’ crossing has been mixed. When he has had chances in 2020 he has struggled to seize them, but that comes with irregular action.
We saw in the first half of last season in performances against Brighton and Liverpool what he is capable of, putting in impressive crosses to Marcus Rashford in both games.
Rotation expected over festive stretch
James should get some opportunities over the next few weeks amid a hectic fixture schedule.
He could feature in the Manchester derby as he did impressively in March, in the Carabao Cup quarter-final, or against the side which covet him, Leeds.
Whether United play a 3-4-1-2 again is uncertain, as Solskjaer seems to change his mind from week to week. There is a need for consistency so we could see the manager choose an alternative and stick with it.
If there is a need for wing-backs, then James should be in the mix. It might be just what United need, and a break for Wan-Bissaka too.
James was Solskjaer’s first ever signing at United and the manager should still be invested in his success. A change of position, even temporarily, could help with that.
- Edinson Cavani’s fitness problems are becoming a little concerning
- Charlie McNeill continues to make a name for himself with another winning goal
- Former United talent Largie Ramazani scores goal from his own half
- Paul Pogba and Edinson Cavani react to Manchester United win
- Dean Henderson has now kept five clean sheets in a row
- Fernandes sends message to Dalot after first league goal for Milan
- Mike Phelan reacts to United’s derby win
- United loanee Tahith Chong provides assist in Club Brugge win
- Harry Maguire raves about Luke Shaw’s performance