Diogo Dalot may have feared his Manchester United career was over after how his rare chance at home to Villarreal went in late September. The right-back was given the runaround by Arnaut Danjuma and then did not make a start in the subsequent two months.
Being on the sidelines at United is unfortunately familiar for Dalot. Now at last, that appears to be changing for the better.
Dalot was recalled by Michael Carrick after an injury to Aaron Wan-Bissaka, and kept his place under new interim boss Ralf Rangnick against Crystal Palace, despite his teammate returning.
A chance in the Premier League was long overdue for Dalot. The game against Arsenal was his first start in the league since 2019.
The Portuguese youngster clearly was not rated by former boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who when given the chance, preferred to play Timothy Fosu-Mensah ahead of him in 2020.
Dalot spent last year on loan at AC Milan, where got better as the season went on, and then was called up as a late addition to Portugal’s Euro 2020 squad, and he has since maintained his international place.
Was Jose Mourinho right about Dalot all along?
Dalot was signed by former Red Devils boss Jose Mourinho during his final summer in charge of the club in 2018.
An early injury delayed Dalot’s start at United and before he knew it, the Special One was sacked. Mourinho was a big fan of a player he was only able to pick for six games.
Speaking to the club website after one of Dalot’s early performances, Mourinho said: “Everybody knows that he has fantastic potential.
“I don’t want to compare, especially not the number of titles but he is probably the same age as Gary Neville when he came into the first team. Probably he can follow Neville in this dynamic of more than 10 years as United’s right-back, with amazing conditions to improve, because as I was saying he’s 19 years old.”
Quoted by BBC Sport when Dalot was signed, Mourinho said: “In his age group, he is the best full-back in Europe “He is an extremely talented young defender with all the qualities to quickly become a great player for this club.
“He has all the attributes that a full-back needs: physicality, tactical intelligence and technical quality, combined with a Porto academy mentality which prepares players for the maturity they need at the professional level.”
Now after a long and patient wait, Dalot has a chance to start proving Mourinho was right about him all along.
His performances against Arsenal and Crystal Palace were impressive, with United keeping a first clean sheet of the season at Old Trafford.
These have given him a platform to kick on from, and while Wan-Bissaka will be looking to maintain his place, Dalot finally has a fair fight for the place.
Wan-Bissaka’s poor performance for United against Young Boys, coupled by a knock to his knee, further suggests Dalot will retain his place this weekend.
Dalot is only 22 and he can still fulfil his potential and become the long term answer at right-back United are looking for.
The defender offers more going forward than Wan-Bissaka, and his defending has been solid in the last two league matches. While promising youngster Ethan Laird will also be added to the right-back mix next season, Dalot has between now and then to really try and prove he deserves to be United’s first choice for the position.
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