Can Wan-Bissaka be United's most important defensive signing in 17 years?

Right from the very start, Aaron Wan-Bissaka has looked fantastic for Manchester United.

His tackling and blocks are turning defending into a highlight reel equivalent to watching an attacker’s tricks.

It’s early days, but Wan-Bissaka has a chance to be the most important defensive signing Manchester United have made since Rio Ferdinand, who joined the club 17 years ago.

Wan-Bissaka, like Ferdinand, is capable of changing the culture of United’s defence.

Before Rio, United’s defence was at a low point after a poor 2001/02 season.


Jaap Stam’s sudden exit and replacement with Laurent Blanc saw United ship 45 goals in the Premier League, only the sixth best.

Photo by James Worsfold/Getty Images

By United’s standards, it wasn’t good enough. The defence had lost it’s way.

Signing Ferdinand from Leeds was an instant fix, with United winning the league the following season, with the best defensive record, 34 against. He was the building block for a decade of improvement.

Wan-Bissaka also has the chance to change the culture of United’s current defence.

This season United have the fifth best defensive record in the league with just 10 goals conceded in 10 games.

Last season United allowed 54 goals against in 38 games, the 11th best in the Premier League.

Instant improvement

Right-back was clearly an issue for United last season, and Wan-Bissaka provides an instant upgrade.

Already he is leading by example, setting a tone for his fellow defenders to follow.

In his first eight Premier League games, he has made clear he will not let anybody past him, taking the pressure off his fellow defenders.

Photo by Yong Teck Lim/International Champions Cup/Getty Images

Like Ferdinand, he can be the catalyst for change and the spark for the defence to reach the next level.

Harry Maguire has been a huge help too in central defence. But the difference when Wan-Bissaka was out with illness last month was noticeable. He is the key man.

Who else?

17 years is a long time, and it’s admittedly a bold statement to say Wan-Bissaka can be United’s most important defensive signing since Ferdinand.

But if not him, then who is?

Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images

Nemanja Vidic has a strong case, but United’s defence was already in great shape when he joined. Wes Brown was performing at a high level alongside Ferdinand. Vidic made us better, rather than transforming us.

Defensive signings since have been mixed, with Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo and Luke Shaw failing to lift the team.

Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelöf have shown flashes, but have not been able to really change the defence as Ferdinand did.

Wan-Bissaka is only 21, but this makes him even more exciting.

It’s early days but he looks worth every penny of the £50 million United spent, and he will be the driving force behind the improvement of a defence which shipped more goals last season than Newcastle and Crystal Palace.

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