Manchester United have been in a perpetual state of flux and rapid change since Sir Alex Ferguson‘s retirement but perhaps no other position in the team has been as malleable as left-back.
Since the departure of Patrice Evra in 2014, United have employed a litany of names in his place: Marcos Rojo, Tyler Blackett, Luke Shaw, Daley Blind, Matteo Darmian, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Demetri Mitchell, Ashley Young have all featured in that position.
The most consistent name out of all of those is, quite amazingly, someone who isn’t even a left-back by trade in Young, who has served as United’s first choice left-back since returning from injury in September.
And while Young has, on the whole, performed with discipline and verve throughout the campaign, he is not the answer, nor any long term solution at the age of 32. Which begs the question: who, if anyone, can solve United’s problem in this position over the summer?
Well, for starters, it isn’t likely to be Shaw. Mourinho labelled him as one of the best left-backs in the world back in January but, in what now seems like some kind of cruel joke, has only made five starts since his manager uttered those words. He was also the victim of another bout of scathing public criticism from the 55-year-old last month following a 2-0 FA Cup win over Brighton and Hove Albion. Nobody will be surprised if he moves elsewhere this summer.
Such is also the case with Darmian and Blind, rendering the acquisition of a new left-back not just preferable but indeed paramount. The latest name is Danny Rose, who has grown frustrated at Tottenham Hotspur, but this makes little sense given the lack of playing time for the Englishman this term.
Other names floated around include Napoli’s Faouzi Ghoulam, Juventus’ Alex Sandro, Benfica’s Alex Grimaldo and Celtic’s Kieran Tierney, although the latter has made his intentions to stay in Glasgow quite clear. Ryan Sessegnon from Fulham is likewise not going anywhere.
So where do United look? Who do they get? Right now, it really is impossible to say. What we can say for certain, however, is that this United team would be inestimably better with a genuine left-back in their side – someone with both mobility and discipline, big game nous and energy, heart and skill.
Pep Guardiola, it should be noted, spent over £130m on full-backs last summer; United have to take to the transfer window with the same level of ambition.