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Analyzing the Right Back Targets of Man United – Past and Present

The transfer window is finally open for good and while the pre-season adventures across the globe are fast approaching, the season has already begun for some. But weirdly enough there hasn’t been much of a movement in terms of player arrivals as expected at this stage, especially in the big English clubs, especially in Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United, where things are just beginning to take shape ahead of their short trip to the States. Despite the well documented need for a right footed #6 type of a midfielder to replace Michael Carrick in the long run and the club actually taking the right steps and closing in on an able Frenchman in Morgan Schneiderlin to fill those shoes, the manager has also identified another position, in their defence, that needs strengthening – the right back area.


While one could argue that United possess two decent Premier League quality right backs in Rafael Da Silva who is somehow perennially injured and Antonio Valencia who’s more effective further forward as he was in the 2011/12 season for United, could now be welcoming a returning Uruguayan from his loan spell in Madrid in young Guillermo Varela (remember?), it’s clear that they need to spend a few million quid in order to significantly improve on what they currently have at their disposal. Although it’s quite confounding as to why the club would pass on an opportunity to sign Southampton’s Nathaniel Clyne for a reasonable 12.5m pound deal with the player’s first preference being United, who would later sign for their arch nemesis, when you thought it couldn’t have been worse.

But looking at the Squawka Comparison Matrix, where I’ve pitted United’s current right back targets in Matteo Darmian (Torino) and Seamus Coleman (Everton) versus the one they have decided not to sign in Clyne and rightly so and their current first choice in that position in Antonio Valencia. As modern full backs go, these are required to break forward and contribute to the side’s attack in terms of assists and occasionally goals as well as form a formidable partnership with their center backs and help tighten up the defence and most importantly not get caught out of position. Unfair life, eh?


Very few full backs in England are as good as Everton’s Seamus Coleman in terms of going forward or bursting forward in his case. But interestingly enough, Torino’s Darmian, who’s equally comfortable at either flank has happened to create more chances than the rest (twice as much as Nathaniel Clyne) and made more key passes than Clyne, Coleman and more importantly higher than United’s current right back, clearly proving to be an improvement in terms of quality of attacking play, implicitly meaning more goals.


Although Valencia and Coleman have managed to create one goal more than Darmian (Clyne has had 0 assists) and Valencia’s pass completion rate being more impressive, it’s more down to Van Gaal’s emphasis on ball retention and ball recycling around the back 6, there’s no conclusive reasons as to why the Italian or Coleman cannot maintain a similar pass completion rate if either of them makes the move to Manchester United. The seemingly lesser pass completion percentage of Darmian can also be attributed to his higher average pass length (19.5m) when compared to the likes of Valencia (15m) and Coleman (18m).


Defensively, by the looks of it, Valencia shades the Legnano born Darmian with a better tackle success rate (2.41 tackles per 90 to Darmian’s 2.14) and a higher number of interceptions per ninety minutes illustrating the Ecuadorian’s experience that comes with his age and the ability to read games.

defBut then again, the 25-year old Italian has seemed to have had more joy in aerial duels (57%) last season than Everton’s Seamus Coleman and a physically strong Valencia, a trait defenders need to have if they are to become successful in the Premier League. As far as defensive errors are concerned, Darmian comes with a reputation of knowing when to defend and attack striking the perfect balance while that’s understood here with his ‘zero’ defensive errors while the rest have had their hiccups during the course of the season, especially Valencia whose error in the FA Cup quarter final against Arsenal costing United, a trip to Wembley.

As much as Van Gaal would ideally want to add the relatively get-able Irishman to his ranks to bolster his options in defence but more glaringly the quality of attack and the ‘proven Premier League player’ tag that comes with Coleman’s blistering pace and ability to whip the ball in from the right consistently for the last two seasons for Everton, I would personally prefer him sign the Italian who would improve the squad in all areas a right back/left back possibly can, with the prime years perfectly timed, at the price he’s available for which sounds mighty reasonable. With Bayern Munich and Napoli also interested in the former Milan Primavera captain, it appears Van Gaal has got one more key decision to make ahead of the new season.

Aashish Murali
Aashish Murali
I can bore you to tears.
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