Friday 10 March 2023

The remarkable renaissance of Aaron Wan - Bissaka

When Manchester United travelled to Fulham for their last match before the five-week World Cup hiatus, it seemed almost certain Aaron Wan - Bissaka had played in the red of United for the last time.
Diogo Dalot had started every game in league and cup with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer signing AWB restricted to only four minutes off the bench all season, at the end of the Old Trafford win over Liverpool.

With Dalot suspended for the trip to Craven Cottage due to a fifth booking of the season, Wan - Bissaka was United's only available right-back. Erik ten Hag appeared to sound the death knell on the popular if struggling player when the Dutchman selected natural left-back Tyrell Malacia in his stead with Luke Shaw on the opposite flank. When Wan - Bissaka couldn't even get in ten Hag's team ahead of a makeshift stand-in, the writing very much seemed on the proverbial wall. 

A January departure seemed inevitable for a player incompatible with ten Hag's raison d'etre. The Dutchman's high-intensity pressing style requires his centre-backs to play a high line and the full-backs to 'bomb on'. For all his brilliant defensive attributes, Wan - Bissaka simply could not do this. 

Quite what sparked his incredible turnaround we will never know but, whilst Dalot's form, fitness and fortunes have plateaued since the restart, Wan - Bissaka has gone from strength to strength. Dalot was given a torrid time against the pace and talismanic trickery of Alain Saint-Maximin in the League Cup final.

But with Wan - Bissaka introduced at half-time, Saint-Maximin was rendered almost anonymous in the second 45 minutes, so much so he was withdrawn for Jacob Murphy with 12 minutes to play. Despite only playing one half, such was Wan - Bissaka's seminal impact, he was a contender for man of the match. It was probably AWB's finest performance in the Red of United and paved the way for the team to go on and end the six-year trophy drought. 

Dalot's selection at Anfield certainly raised eyebrows and he was picked again as ten Hag named an unchanged side for the Europa League visit of Real Betis on Thursday. Four days on from the Anfield anomaly, United looked in trouble again after Ayoze Perez had cancelled out Marcus Rashford's early opener. But the introduction of Wan - Bissaka once again proved pivotal as United gained the ascendancy and restored the equilibrium, helped in no small part by AWB's devastating deviation between defence and attack. He gave us more defensive authority and played a part in the move which led to captain Bruno Fernandes headed third goal. 

The combination of Wan - Bissaka and Antony completely nullified the threat of the high flying La Liga side and saw United put the tie to bed even before next week's return in Seville. 

Wan - Bissaka has been the ying to Dalot's yang and surely be now be ahead of his contemporary in the pecking order. Wan - Bissaka has to come in to the team now for the foreseeable future starting with the visit of 19th-placed Southampton on Sunday. 

Could it be ten Hag worked his magic on AWB during the World Cup break when there were no domestic games? Could it be him peaking at the right time given his lack of game time in the first half of the season? Perhaps the talk of a move away proved the turning point. Rumours of a move back to first love Crystal Palace failed to materialise and he has certainly made the most of his second chance.

What I love too is the fact he never complained, he never whinged or threw his toys out the pram. He never aired his frustrations over a lack of game time in public. He has got his head down and remained focused on the job of winning ten Hag over. A certain Cristiano Ronaldo could certainly learn a thing or two.

Dalot has not been right since returning from the World Cup injured and Wan - Bissaka has enjoyed a terrific revival as the main beneficiary. His defensive play has been as solid as ever but there has been a clear uptick in his attacking output too. Although he only has a solitary assist to his name this term, his darting runs from deep, composure on the ball and strong dribbling ability have been notable improvements in his game. Nearly every player has improved under the expert tutelage of the erudite ten Hag but perhaps none more so than AWB. 

He is our best right-back at present and the team looks a much better one with him in it. ten Hag certainly doesn't now need to dip into the transfer market for another right-back such has been Wan - Bissaka's remarkable, heart-warming resurgence. 

No comments:

Post a Comment