Only one day is left for the Erik ten Hag era to officially begin with Manchester United taking on Brighton at Old Trafford. And it is almost a certainty that in the Dutchman’s first-ever United XI, Diogo Dalot’s name will be included as the starting right-back.
It will be quite the turnaround for a player who was sent out on loan and seemingly not in future plans when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was in charge.
The Norwegian was not a big fan of the young Portuguese full-back and as pointed out by Samuel Luckhurst in his article for The MEN, the former manager had even said, Dalot “can’t defend” after Villarreal winger Arnaut Danjuma gave Dalot quite the hiding last season.
🗣 Diogo Dalot: “I always want to be better than what I was before and this season I want to step up my game individually. Collectively, hopefully, we can reach the end of the season with some trophies.” [MU]
— Utd District (@UtdDistrict) August 5, 2022
One of Solskjaer’s first decisions as permanent manager was to buy Aaron Wan-Bissaka for £50million and the former treble winner even went on to hand Timothy Fosu-Mensah a lifeline instead of trusting Dalot.
The 23-year-old was sent away to AC Milan on loan and he made the most of the opportunity with a marked improvement in fitness being one of the major takeaways. His form saw enquiries from Milan, Borussia Dortmund, Roma and Atletico Madrid.
And the same article goes on to elucidate how Dalot has worked hard to turn around his fortunes at United. “Sources say Dalot “never gave up” on reigniting his career in Manchester, despite lacking the confidence of the manager and certain supporters.”
Dalot has changed for the better
Once Solskjaer was shown the door, the former Porto defender seemed to gain the trust of interim boss Ralf Rangnick and managed 18 starts out of 24 Premier League games under the German while starting in both FA Cup ties and the Champions League knockout defeat to Atletico.
This was in sharp contrast to his playing time under Solskjaer, where he was limited to 10 league starts in nearly three years.
Examples cited by Luckhurst include staying back in his hotel and reducing socializing to an absolute minimum during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to be available for selection during his time in Milan.
Even in pre-season prior to Ten Hag’s arrival, Dalot was so eager to catch the new boss’ eye that he worked with a personal trainer to increase his velocity, something that has been duly noted by United’s fitness coaches.
“Such was Dalot’s determination to report at Carrington in peak condition he allocated himself one week’s holiday in the Maldives with his girlfriend and still followed his tailored programme on the remote island,” the article went on to mention.
“I feel like I’m a Man United player. But obviously work every single day to play. I wanna be ready for the manager, for the club, and every time he needs me I’m gonna be there,” Dalot was quoted as saying in the mixed zone at the Optus Stadium in Perth a fortnight ago.
Four years on from being announced as a new Red Devil, it seems Dalot has finally arrived and under Ten Hag, a manager who prefers his full-backs to attack, he is set to replace Wan-Bissaka as United’s new and improved right-back.
United Matchday Magazine – get yours FREE now!
The wait is over. United are back and there is a new general leading the Red Army. Brighton are coming to Old Trafford so get ready for the game with United Matchday Mag. This first issue of the new season is FREE, so get yours now!
- Online football content like you’ve never seen before
- The mag gives you all the news, facts and features you NEED before every game
- Instantly delivered to your device with easy and secure online ordering
- Click Preview to see more and GET YOUR FREE COPY
- Limited time offer: SAVE 33% on a season pass