Football played by modern day teams in the recent era has seen a major decline in left footed out-and-out wingers with right footed wingers cutting in from the left being preferred to the more classic style of winger.
Ryan Giggs has been the most notable left footed winger to grace the Old Trafford turf in the past few decades but as he’s got older, he’s started to be suited to a more central role.
This has seen United deploy players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani, Ashley Young and more recently Shinji Kagawa and Danny Welbeck out on the wide left – all of whom are predominantly right footed players. This style of play has become familiar all over Europe with many of the worlds top players preferring to play on the opposite wing to cut in and attack the full back on the opposite foot.
Lionel Messi, Frank Ribery and Juan Mata just to name a few have become household names through scoring goals by cutting in from the right. But the resurgence of out and out wingers in the Premier League like Gareth Bale and Theo Walcott has once again begged the question – where is United’s next wing sensation going to come from?
In August 2012, United signed the relatively unknown Alexander Buttner from Dutch outfit Vitesse where he had scored ten goals in over 100 appearances in a career spanning only four years. United had already confirmed that two left-backs, Fryers and Fabio Da Silva, were set to leave the club on permanent and loan deals respectively which opened up a gap for a new signing.
The 23-year-old was bought in as cover for United’s first choice left back Patrice Evra who had played over 150 games for the club in the past three years as he had no real competition for his place. Buttner made his United debut in a 4-0 over Wigan Athletic, assisting one goal and scoring another in a debut that won’t be forgotten about in a hurry. But what’s this got to do with United’s left wing problems?
Buttner started off his professional career as a left winger after he joined Vitesse from Ajax’s youth setup at the age of 16. He started to build up a good reputation for being a powerhouse with lots of pace and power with an eye for a step over or two. But after Vitesse’s first choice left back got injured, Buttner filled in and he has not looked back since.
He is the type of left back which United are known for nurturing. Many people are quick to label United’s full backs as ‘defensive wingers’ and it’s easy to see why. Evra loves bombing forward as often as he can but there seems to be more attacking exuberance from Buttner than in Evra. Attacking obviously comes more naturally to Buttner than defending, something we have seen this season with the 24-year-old sometimes being a bit rash in the challenge but he has certainly started to settle thanks in no small part to Robin van Persie.
Despite him being left footed, the young Dutchman has shown the willingness to come inside and provide a daunting cross with his right foot, something Evra and even Giggs have found difficult over the years. But what stands out most to me about Buttner is the quickness of his feet. His debut goal against Wigan typified his style of play completely.
Even though no step overs were used, he powered past no less than four Wigan defenders to squeeze a shot in at the near post. A goal created and finished by Buttner’s own work.
I don’t see any reason why this lad couldn’t become a successful left winger. With a little bit of help off the master that is Ryan Giggs, I think that the Doetinchem born left-footer could easily become a suitable candidate for the left wing role at United.
Why spend a reported £70m on some boy called Bale when we’ve got a bloke called Buttner.