Those who suggested Diogo Dalot’s battle with Arnaut Danjuma – the Villarreal winger emphatically won the duel – was humiliating because the latter played for Bournemouth last season had clearly never followed the Dutchman in the Championship.
Danjuma was vastly superior to most of the opposition he played against in the second tier last term, it was clear he was destined for bigger things, and it was no surprise to see him join Villarreal this summer, nor was it a surprise to see him strike fear into United’s right-back Dalot under the floodlights at Old Trafford when he was dared to be drawn in and deceived by his quick feet.
Although it was revealed after the game that it was perhaps through design, Dalot’s positional awareness against Villarreal on Wednesday was non-existent and Danjuma certainly enjoyed roaming down that flank – the United full-back looked helpless.
After receiving a red card against BSC Young Boys, Aaron Wan-Bissaka was suspended for the visit of Villarreal, however, the general consensus on social media among United supporters was that United would fare just fine without the right-back in their side.
Instead, Dalot was United’s glaring weakness on the night and Wan-Bissaka’s reputation increased without even playing.
Until the middle of last season, Wan-Bissaka had been relatively free of scrutiny at United since his £50million transfer from Crystal Palace two years ago, but his lack of contribution in United’s passages of play in attack – made to look worse by Luke Shaw’s outstanding renaissance and energy on the opposite side – began to catch the eye.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was hopeful of signing Kieran Trippier this summer to offer United an attacking outlet from right-back and that interest in the Atletico Madrid man spoke louder than any words could on what the Norwegian thought of Wan-Bissaka.
Despite Wan-Bissaka’s limitations going forward, though, there’s no denying he’s an outstanding, astute defender.
While it’s impossible to know for certain, it’s likely Wan-Bissaka would have performed better against Villrreal’s tricky Danjuma in comparison to Dalot because he’s consistently demonstrated that he’s arguably the Premier League’s finest one-on-one right-back.
Wan-Bissaka has had to deal with an unprecedented degree of scrutiny this season in regards to his United career and, although frustrations over his attacking credentials are justified, it can be forgotten that he’s such an excellent defender of the ball.
After Dalot failed to seize his opportunity to impress against Villarreal, it seems inevitable that Wan-Bissaka will start against Everton on Saturday afternoon and there’s reason to believe he could be United’s most important player in that fixture.
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Rafa Benitez devised a plan to get the best out of Dominic Calvin-Lewin this campaign and that was to overwhelm and overload the opposition in the wide areas to provide his centre-forward with the service that he has proved he can thrive off.
Everton signed Demari Gray and Andros Townsend in the summer to execute Benitez’s vision and, while the signings didn’t look much on paper, both players have already exceeded expectations and they’ll aim to test United’s full-backs on Saturday.
Townsend, Gray and Alex Iwobi are all players who will look to cause danger down the flanks and Wan-Bissaka will be invaluable if United want to successfully stifle Everton’s attacks to win the game – those duels will be the deciding factor.