Sometimes in the world of elite sports, it takes an act of pure luck to stumble upon something that turns into a great decision.
Manchester United know this better than most. They were desperate to sign Alan Shearer once upon a time, but when he turned them down they instead signed Teddy Sheringham and won the treble.
They also would never have signed the catalyst for their success in the 1990’s, Eric Cantona, if they hadn’t received a phone call from Leeds enquiring about the availability of Denis Irwin.
So with a new manager in Ralf Rangnick taking charge recently at Old Trafford and everyone starting with a clean slate, full-back Diogo Dalot has another chance to make it at Manchester United.
The Portuguese defender has had a tough time at the club since joining under Jose Mourinho back in 2018 from FC Porto. He made 23 appearances in his debut campaign for the club, but in the two-and-a-half seasons that have followed he’s played just 21 times for them
He was loaned out to AC Milan last year and had it not been for an unsuccessful move for Kieran Trippier in the summer, he probably would have left on a permanent deal.
This season, Dalot barely featured under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer before the Norwegian was sacked. He started in the League Cup and in the Champions League when Aaron Wan-Bissaka was suspended, and made some substitute appearances.
An injury to Wan-Bissaka’s hand meant he was handed a start by interim boss Michael Carrick against Arsenal where he played well, and Rangnick opted for an unchanged team against Crystal Palace a few days later.
He was then rested for the Champions League clash against Young Boys in midweek, where Wan-Bissaka’s performance caught the eye for all the wrong reasons. A bad night for him got even worse when on the final whistle he went crashing into the advertising hoardings and had to be stretchered off with a knee and wrist problem after the final whistle.
That paves the way for Dalot to get back in the team for the weekend’s clash against Norwich City and potentially secure a prolonged run in the team.
He won’t get a better chance to make that spot his own than now, because he is the better suited option for the way the German wants to play football.
Dalot is so much more comfortable on the ball and is capable of playing dynamic passes with both feet. He is also a willing runner with the ability to beat a man with dribbling, while his crossing is far superior.
Defensively he has more to learn and offer, but with coaching there is a solid young full-back there. That’s what Rangnick is looking for and that’s why he’s there, to help develop the raw talent at the club.
But his attacking skillset is so much better suited to the modern full-back of today’s game, where the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Reece James, Joao Cancelo, Andrew Robertson and Alphonso Davies are key parts to their club’s successes.
A run in the team with a string of good performances under the new management will give the boss no reason to leave him out of the side when Wan-Bissaka is eventually fit again.
There is no time like the present and with Manchester United firmly in transition to a more attacking unit, the time is now for Dalot to step up and make a claim for the right-back spot.
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