Ralf Rangnick's dream left-back is a player Manchester United nearly signed
Manchester United have a battle at left-back between Alex Telles and Luke Shaw. Finally there is proper competition between the two.
When Telles was signed last season it was under the guise of competition, but it was never a fair contest. Luke Shaw was always first choice under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and now Telles is getting the chance to show what he can do.
Telles has been outstanding lately, making more tackles than Luke Shaw in the Premier League despite playing seven games fewer.
What is Ralf Rangnick’s left-back vision?
Rangnick was on record criticising Luke Shaw before he became Manchester United manager.
In an interview with Football Daily in 2020, he said: “They could do with a left-back, I know they have Luke Shaw but I’m not so sure if he’s still on the same kind of level you need for a club like Manchester United.”
This was before United signed Telles, and before Shaw hit form in 2020/21, a peak from which he has since sharply regressed.
Rangnick’s vision for the left-back position is made cloudier by his comments on the player he regards as the very best in the role.
Speaking to The Athletic last year, Rangnick praised Bayern’s Alphonso Davies. He said: “Their squad planning has been brilliant, too. Alphonso Davies is probably the best left-back in the world right now. It’s a joy watching him play.”
Davies, 21, is already a Champions League winner and has five assists to his name already this season. His defensive ability is complemented by his quality going forward and his outstanding pace.
United almost signed Davies as a teenager, even inviting the Canadian on trial, The MEN reported. But no deal could be done, and he ended up at Bayern instead.
Do United have an alternative?
Rather than dwell on the exciting talent United did not sign, let’s focus on the one they did. In 2020 a deal was struck to land Alvaro Fernandez from Real Madrid.
The 18-year-old has been outstanding since joining, quickly earning promotion from the under-18s to the under-23s within his first two months at the club.
This season Fernandez has six assists at under-23 and UEFA Youth League level, more than any other player, plus two goals.
As a non homegrown player, Fernandez was not eligible to feature in the recent Champions League clash with Young Boys, otherwise he likely would have got his chance.
The 18-year-old has trained with the first team this season on more than one occasion, and United could look to involve him over the next few weeks with the under-23 campaign now on a break until January 10.
Fernandez has a long way to go to echo Davies’ Bayern success, but he perhaps offers a closer resemblance in style to the Canadian than either Shaw or Telles.
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