Manchester United headed into Monday night’s clash against Southampton in high spirits.
A 17-match unbeaten run and three successive victories by a margin of three goals speaks volumes. And another win this week would have seen United jump into third place in the table.
Instead, United are licking their wounds after a late equaliser saw them slip from third to fifth in the blink of an eye.
There is still plenty to play for. And this disappointment shows how far United have come. After all, with three more victories Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men will return to the Champions League.
But Monday’s game may also have robbed the boss of both senior left-backs.
Luke Shaw’s twisted ankle and Brandon Williams’ head injury means United are short of options heading into a huge few days. And that could lead to a return for Diogo Dalot.
The £19million signing (BBC) is predominantly a right-back but he can also operate on the opposite flank.
He has impressed there in the past for United, bagging an assist against Brighton in a 2-1 victory. And this is his chance to prove he still has a bright future at Old Trafford.
A second chance
Given Dalot’s lack of games this season, it is pretty clear what Solskjaer thinks of him. At least when compared with Shaw, Williams and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
While those three have featured time and again, Dalot has managed just 65 minutes in the league. He has also failed to make the match-day squad for any of the last nine Premier League games.
Dalot’s last run-out – against Norwich City in the FA Cup – was a disappointment as he came off after 63 minutes. But now he needs to seize his opportunity.
Williams will surely sit out Thursday’s game following his head injury. If Shaw is not risked – or is simply rested after so many games in quick succession – Dalot should step in.
Now back from a minor injury of his own, Dalot must play to his full potential.
The 21-year-old has plenty of talent. His early games at United proved that. But niggles, the arrival of Wan-Bissaka and the emergence of Williams have seen him fall down the pecking order.
This week is huge for United – with massive league and FA Cup games. It could also be significant for Dalot.
Having seen his teammates suffer unlucky blows, he must train like he has never trained before to ensure he is in the starting XI on Thursday and then again this weekend.
If he then plays, and plays well, he could just save his United career.
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