Red Thoughts: Who should play at full-back for Manchester United?

by Red Debate

With rumours of Darmian leaving in January and Coleman or Fabinho possibly being lined up as a replacement, and with Blind’s excellent recent form at left back, this week the Red Thoughts team discuss United’s options at full back.

JIM: Before we sell him, Darmian deserves a run in the first team. He’s good enough but has just had his confidence knocked by LVG.

REX: Regarding the right back position, here are some pros and cons:

Darmian – Pros: solid defensively, decent football brain; Cons: lacks speed, height and can’t be depended on going forward in attack. (No crosses, no dribbles and definitely can’t overlap because of his speed issue). So if we were still playing LVG style football, he’s your man.

Valencia – Pros: fast, powerful (can’t be thrown off the ball easily), attack-minded – although he needs to work on his crossing but way better than Darmian’s – can beat a man 1 on 1; Cons: he’s not a defender, he often gets caught up front, but his pace helps him recover. He gets caught ball watching a lot as well, rather than watching the movement of the man he was assigned to mark.
Marcos Rojo-min
Timbo – Pros: has all the strengths of a full back; Cons: young and naive at times. Jumps into tackles, ball watches as well.

So on my analysis, it’s obvious to me who is going to start in a Mourinho lineup.

TOM: I personally like Darmian, he needs to work on his play further up the field but defensively he’s pretty sound. Having said that, I don’t see things working out for him with us, I think the writing has been on the wall for a while and the point Rex makes about him fitting more with Mou’s predecessor says it all in my book. I’ve liked the idea of Coleman for a few years now; defensively he’s pretty solid but he also creates a lot going forward.

I hate the idea of Timbo at RB; yeah, he’s more than capable, but for me he is a CDM or a CM. It’s good to have versatility, but sometimes it can end up being pretty detrimental to your career and I think given the chance to stake a claim he could go on to do great things in our midfield in the future.

CARL: I’m not convinced by Darmian. Who wouldn’t want Coleman? He’s a quality full back.

RICK: I also like Darmian, he’s a good player. His problem is that he gets injured a lot, which is why he got dropped by LVG. He put in some good performances for us, but when you think he’s going to hold down that position, he goes and gets injured.

BETS: Surely Coleman’s injury record is much worse? He’s missed 4 games already this season (vs 0 for Darmian), 11 last season (vs 9 for Darmian), 6 the season before (vs 0 for Darmian).

FAB: According to the reports in Italy, Darmian is on his way back there in January as his place in the national team is in danger. Knowing Ventura, Darmian is right to be worried. Personally, I think that he is an amazing RB. He had great seasons with Torino, where I watched him play every week. He is an AC Milan academy graduate and some of that definitely rubbed off on him. So I was happy that we signed him, but I really feel like he’s not showing his potential. First he was doing fine, he even got compared to Gary Neville, then there were the injury issues. To make it worse, there was that Tottenham game.
Antonio Valencia-min
I think I read somewhere that Mourinho was furious at Darmian for getting back late from his vacation after the Euros. I don’t know if it’s true, but that might be the problem in their relationship. Anyway, he is better than Rojo and I really don’t understand why Marcos is getting a chance to play and he is not. I understand that Timbo is being used as a RB, but he has played as a LB as well and has done his job well. Darmian really needs some minutes before we sell him.

Of all of the RBs out there, Seamus Coleman seems the perfect signing for Mou. Fabinho? Absolutely not, he’s another mercenary who wanted to double his wages by using the media with a few links with United. Everyone knows how good Coleman is, so if we go for him, then a million times yes.

BETS: For me the key event that changed Darmian’s future was when he was inexplicably dropped by LVG after playing really well against City and Everton last season. I think it just crushed the lad’s confidence and he never got it back. The penalty miss for Italy vs Germany in Euro 16 also didn’t help. I would really love Mou to give him a chance with maybe a run of Europa league games, rather than sell him.

I don’t agree with you Rex that he lacks height – he’s 6ft, and I do think he gets forward well (although more sparingly) and can put in a good cross. Obviously he’s not as fast as Valencia who, as we all know, is a converted winger so is bound to have more attacking qualities. But I do think defensively he’s way better, and with great wingers like Mkhitaryan at our disposal, and playing in a 4-2-3-1, for me, the defensive qualities are more important on balance than the attacking ones.

RICK: Darmian will need to do a lot to oust Valencia right now. But I do feel he should get a run in the team, especially in Europa League and cup games. Maybe he’s just not putting in any effort in training, hence why he’s not getting the games. None of us see the guys every day so we don’t know what Mourinho sees or whether he’s doing anything to warrant a start.

HEMOR: I liked Darmian when we signed him (just like Rojo) but now after several months here he’s unable to seal his position and a converted winger plays his natural position better than him. If we sign Coleman then we should definitely sell Darmian and keep Valencia as backup RB with Timbo as 3rd choice. I don’t see Darmian escaping the next two transfer windows, because we need a quality RB.

BETS: As regards the LB position, I think Blind should replace Shaw for the time being in tougher games. Shaw is a wonderful player, but I think the qualities Blind has to offer are more important at the moment. First, he is a great reader of the game and positionally way better than Shaw. What he lacks in pace he makes up for in anticipation. Second, he is a great distributor of the ball. He starts quite a few attacks for us with that range of passing of his. Third, as he showed against Leicester, he can put in a decent corner, which is an area in which we have badly been lacking. And finally, he is a natural defender, he has defender’s instincts, and if we continue with 4-2-3-1 – especially if the DM is a distributor like Herrera or Carrick rather than a mopper-upper like Schneiderlin or Fellaini, we need our full backs to be more disciplined and defensive-minded.
Luke Shaw-min
JIM: I think Shaw should remain our first choice LB, as when fit he is one of the world’s best, but I don’t know if Shaw will live up to his potential due to the injuries he keeps sustaining. Funnily enough, Bets, those attributes you described are exactly the kind of attributes required for a defensive midfielder…

COREY: I agree … for all the reasons you listed Bets, I think Blind’s best role would be at defensive mid. For over a year now i have been saying our best midfield partnership would be Blind/Schneiderlin. I know that the purchase of Pogba changes that, especially now that everyone wants to change to a 4-3-3. But assuming we stick with a 4-2-3-1, who partners Pogba at defensive mid? Well, Herrera showed he is an excellent choice. But I also think Blind would make an excellent choice.

If Shaw can stay healthy he has to be first choice at LB. But i would certainly take Blind over Rojo when Shaw is not fit.

BETS: My point is in this 4-2-3-1 system I don’t think we need a defensive mid, we need more defensive full backs and better passing from defence. If we put Blind in at DM and Shaw at LB we have 1 player capable of passing from deep. Whereas if we put Blind at LB and keep Herrera (or even Carrick) at DM we have 2 distributors from deep. Also with Blind at LB we are not so vulnerable to attacks from the right wing as we are when Shaw plays. Like I said about Valencia behind Mkhitaryan, with Martial or Rashford attacking from the left wing, I think Shaw is a luxury as another attacking option, when what we really need is more of an all rounder behind them.

FAB: It’s a good thing that we have options to replace Shaw and I wouldn’t hurry to play him as he needs to recover fully from his injuries, and Blind is doing the job really well. To be honest, it was a surprise to me that Blind wasn’t used more in the LB position under LVG, when he had been awesome there for Holland, but I guess it’s always different in the national team. Yet against Leicester and since he has done the LB job really well.

REX: I’m not too worried whether it’s Blind or Shaw. Shaw’s got the speed but needs to work on his on the ball skills, passing, 1-2s with others and crossing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him cross a ball that connected with a player in the box (I could be wrong). Blind is the full package but without speed. You can’t teach speed, so depending on the game, either can be picked. But I’d go with Blind as he stabilizes the CB pairing as well. I had such high hopes for Rojo but he’s just a ‘just in case’ now … cover … nothing more.

TOM: I think in terms of the LB position it’s a matter of horses for courses, in some games Luke’s pace and love of an overlap will be a joy to behold, but on other occasions you need the thinking man there, reading the game and picking his moments. In regards to Rojo, if he want’s me to help him pack I’m more than willing!

BETS: Maybe the solution is to play horses for courses in both FB positions. Against better teams or in tough away games I’d play (an on form and match fit) Darmian at RB and Blind at LB. For most home games and easier away games, I’d play Valencia and Shaw.

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