This series of articles started when there were 13 days until Manchester United’s next game against Brighton at Old Trafford.
13 days to make the necessary adjustments to remedy a poor start. 13 days to implement tactical changes which will improve the team’s performance. 13 days to regain and rally the spirit which was carefully cultivated last season.
13 days to fix United’s season essentially.
Over these 13 days, The Peoples Person team are looking at 13 areas United can look to improve upon before their next Premier League fixture. An article a day until Erik ten Hag’s issues have drifted away.
Today’s piece focuses on the right-wing; an area United are currently experiencing something of a crisis in. A previous analysis has considered Antony’s position at present, but recent updates have ensured we must revisit this position once again.
From Too Many Options To None
At a certain point during the summer, it appeared Ten Hag may have an overabundance of options for the right-wing position.
Antony, his premier signing last summer, was backed up by Jadon Sancho – the previous summer’s blockbuster signing. And the prospect of Mason Greenwood returning had grown from a distant possibility to an immediate probability.
Three prodigiously talented forwards for one position. Yet within a month of the start of the Premier League season, Ten Hag is unlikely to be able to utilise any of them against Brighton.
The uproar from the leaked story of Greenwood’s reintegration reached such an overwhelming crescendo that United’s executive branch quickly reversed their decision, instead announcing the forward would be departing Old Trafford. A last-minute loan deal to Getafe was agreed on deadline day.
Yet, within ten days of this move, the same United officials were then forced to announce Antony would not be returning to the first-team squad, but rather remaining in Brazil to focus on allegations made against him there.
This announcement had come less than a week after Sancho had initiated a public argument with Ten Hag, refuting the Dutchman’s explanation for his exclusion from the squad against Arsenal on X (formerly known as Twitter).
“Please don’t believe everything you read! I will not allow people saying things that is completely untrue, I have conducted myself in training very well this week. I believe there are other reasons for this matter that I won’t go into, I’ve been a scapegoat for a long time which isn’t fair!”
Ten Hag is said to have been left “bitterly disappointed” by Sancho’s public outburst with the matter reportedly unresolved as of yet.
As the Dutchman prepares his side this week to face off against Brighton, it’s unclear who exactly will be starting on the right-hand side of United’s attack. A seemingly unlikely scenario only a few months prior.
The Alternative Options
A natural solution to this problem would have been Amad Diallo.
The diminutive Ivorian was a metaphorically big player for Sunderland last season on loan. His performances were so good in fact he won the PFA Fans’ Player of the Year award.
However, a recent Instagram post by the winger revealed a scar on his knee, indicating he had received a previously unknown surgery in the summer, following an injury in pre-season. His return date is unknown.
Another possibility would have been Mason Mount.
Despite possessing United’s number seven, Mount is not a natural right-winger. His intelligence, physicality and technical ability make him a swiss army knife of a footballer nonetheless, and Ten Hag is thought to value the tactical flexibility he offers.
Mount could undoubtedly have done a servicable job on the wing, if he wasn’t also recovering from an injury. The midfielder is reportedly targetting the Bayern Munich game as a return date, suggesting he will not be available for selection this weekend.
In a similar vein to Mount, Bruno Fernandes is likely to be the option Ten Hag selects. United’s captain has played there before under the Dutchman with Christian Eriksen able to deputise in the number ten position in his absence.
This is a mistake, however, and ignores the option of the only other natural right-sided player in the United squad at present.
Facundo Is A Go
Facundo Pellistri has played the vast majority of his career on the right-wing; at club and international level.
The Uruguayan signed for United in 2020 from Peñarol in a deal worth a reported £9 million. A recommendation from former striker, Diego Forlan, convinced then-manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær of Pellistri’s similarities to Ryan Giggs.
The winger spent the second half of the 2020/21 season on loan to Deportivo Alavés, before returning to the Spanish side for the entirety of 2021/22.
Pellistri’s debut for United came under Ten Hag, coming on as a substitute against Charlton in the Carabao Cup. It was a productive cameo for the Uruguayan as he quickly recorded an assist for United’s second goal, helping to put the game to bed. A full start came two months later, against Real Betis in the Europa League.
Interestingly, Pellistri has made more first-team appearances for the Uruguayan senior team than he has United. It’s a slightly unusual position for a player to find themselves in. But one which underscores how much his national team coaches rate his abilities.
This rating is shared by coaches around European club football. A large number of clubs wanted to secure Pellistri’s services on loan this summer. Initially, United were open to such a move, believing first-team football would help continue his development.
But as the transfer window drew to a close, Ten Hag reportedly made the decision Pellistri would be remaining at Old Trafford. The Dutchman believed he needed depth in the forward line.
This has proven a prophetic decision. And one which Ten Hag must abide by if United are to improve from their shaky start this season.
Bruno Fernandes is United’s creative fulcrum. O capitão is the heartbeat of the midfield and optimally placed as the number ten. Fernandes lacks the speed or fleet-footedness to function on the wing. Moving him there limits his effectiveness and, consequently, stymies United.
Pellistri should be handed the starting berth instead; if anything, because it enables Fernandes to continue in his best position.
The Uruguayan also possesses speed and an exciting directness to his play. Refreshing attributes from the almost tentative approaches of Antony and Sancho.
Pellistri’s abilitiy to hug the touchline and beat the oppositon fullback on the outside should make him a dangerous crosser of the ball. And with Højlund set to begin life as United’s starting centre-forward, a winger capable of consistently providing dangerous crosses becomes an even more attractive option.
Pellistri’s inclusion enables United’s best players to play in their best positions. The fact he may be able to leave the left-back for dead, and whip in an assist from the byline, would be a delicious cherry on top.
CONCLUSION – Pellistri is the right choice for the right-wing.