Will Diogo Dalot be United's right wing solution?

Diogo Dalot made his first appearance of the season for Manchester United in the 1-0 Europa League group stage win over Astana on Thursday.

He played at right back but the impressive appearances of summer signing Aaron Wan-Bissaka look likely to limit his opportunities for gametime there.

But in the summer, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said that he is capable of playing on the right wing, as per Metro.

He said: “Diogo can play right wing and has probably gone from right-back to being able to play right wing.”

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What would he bring to the role?

With his background as a right back, Dalot would bring defensive diligence to the wide role and showed that on occasion last season.

He also brings raw energy and pace as well as a desire to work hard to earn a place in the side, something which is non-negotiable in Solskjaer’s current United side.

After missing a sitter on Thursday, he is still yet to score for United, but is able to beat a man and whip in a decent cross from out side, even if this aspect of his game was below par against Astana.

For a fanbase used to the likes of David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo, having a converted right back on the wing may be disappointing. But he offers natural width, energy and discipline – so it might not be the worst idea.

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Who are the alternatives?

The right of midfield has been an issue for quite some time now, with Jose Mourinho, the man who signed Dalot in 2018, unable to unearth a natural fit for that position during his reign. At least not deliberately. Dalot might end up being his legacy.

Dan James is an option, but it is already clear he is better on the left, where he is able to cut inside and fire off shots. Perhaps Anthony Martial’s return will prompt a reshuffle, but James also plays on the left for Wales too and did so for Swansea mostly last season.

Juan Mata has been shoehorned in there far too often in recent years. He has never had the legs to play wide and on the evidence of the Astana match, his powers are on the wane anyway.

Andreas Pereira was shunted out there against Southampton but is an awkward fit; he would likely rather pull the strings from a more central role, either at the back of midfield or the number ten role. He can cross, but he prefers to drift inside and does not look a natural fit there, because he isn’t.

Jesse Lingard was Solskjaer’s preferred choice when he got the job, but his lack of goals and assists in 2019 are now a viral joke. In any case, he has played better on England duty when played as a central playmaker.

He offers much the same as Dalot, 20, from the right in truth; willing to run and track back with rare moments of magic, but ultimately a lack of guile.

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Would it be a good idea?

On paper, James could be the first choice right winger when Martial returns to the side and Rashford takes his spot on the left.

But would United want to shunt their most on-form player out of position?

Even if they do, James is going to need resting as the season goes on and Dalot’s energy in the role could be useful.

Dalot had brief spells in the role at the end of last season with mixed success. Against PSG in a wing-back role his attacking forced United’s victory, but subsequent games against Arsenal and Wolves on the wing showed he has a lot of developing to do.

Against West Ham this weekend he may be rested, so he will probably get a chance to prove himself against Rochdale this week again, and continue his comeback from injury.

It might not be the most inspiring choice at first glance, but as a way of maintaining United’s youthfulness and energy as well as giving a talented young player games while not dislodging Wan-Bissaka, Dalot on the right wing from time to time looks a genuinely viable option now he’s back fit.

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Sam Preston is an NCTJ gold standard news and sports journalist who studied with the Press Association. He also has a 2:1 law with French law degree from the University of Birmingham, which included a year studying at Bordeaux Montaigne University. He is an FA Level 1 football coach who appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show in 2018 and has also written digital football content and match-day programme pieces for Colchester United, Mansfield Town and Stockport County.