Manchester United have a variety of options as fill-in left-backs in case Brandon Williams and Luke Shaw are not passed fit on Thursday night.
Diogo Dalot, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Ethan Laird, Dan James, Timothy Fosu-Mensah and even Scott McTominay are six possible stand-ins Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could turn to.
There is a seventh. It is one which has the potential to work, but is unlikely to be considered for games as big as Thursday’s Premier League clash and Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final.
This involves the potential redeployment of young winger Tahith Chong to play at left-back.
Chong has the ability to make an impact
The big reason counting against Chong being considered here this week is his recent lack of football.
As a winger, he is not getting into United’s matchday squads despite training with the first team.
So changing his role would make him more important to Solskjaer long-term, even if such a change would prove too sudden to foist upon him this week.
If United were to switch systems and move to 3-4-1-2, Chong would be asked to play as a wing-back in this scenario, making the transition a little easier.
The Saka example
United only need to look at the success of young winger Bukayo Saka at Arsenal to see how this could work.
Saka filled in at left-back when needed earlier this season and has arguably become Arsenal’s best player at the position, even though his best role is probably further forward.
Arsenal fans would say this is because Saka is a top tier talent who is good enough to play anywhere on the pitch. But it wasn’t so long ago that Manchester United fans had similarly high hopes for Chong.
In the under-23s this season, Chong has been a game changer. He has scored five goals and provided five assists in six matches.
He has two first team assists too, both coming in the Europa League knockout stages.
Shifting him to play at left-back or left wing-back could play to his strengths.
Chong has a strong work ethic and likes to attack, especially when running into space.
As a winger he has found it tougher at first team level when it comes to making decisions against defenders who sit back, but at full-back the game will come more instinctively to him as he looks to find space on the overlap and run into it.
An option for United to explore
As it stands, Chong may end up being sent out on loan next season after failing to earn regular playing time.
It might be that out on loan Chong develops his game in a role like this, as opposed to a winger, where there will be more competition for places at United after this summer’s transfer business.
There may also be a chance for United to test Chong out in a role like this in the Europa League dead rubber game against LASK, where we have a 5-0 lead from the first leg.
Chong is likely to be involved somehow, probably as a starter, it is just a question of which position.
United could learn a little more about him by testing him out as a left-back or left wing-back in this match, and having a look at whether he has the potential to challenge Brandon Williams and Luke Shaw, or at least provide quality cover if we are in this scenario again.
This would save having to buy a left-back who is not likely to be first choice, and if this is something United want to explore, the club now have around three weeks to prepare Chong for the audition.
If it turns out that United have the club’s own Bukayo Saka in the ranks, it would be a worthwhile experiment indeed.
Chong clearly has talent as shown by his performances at youth level and brief flickers in the first team. He just needs an opening to show it.
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