Much of United’s strengths lie within the experience and versatility boasted by Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young. However, both players are now 32 years of age, and next season could be the last in which both men can enjoy being at their best. Thereafter, the sharp decline that often plagues older wide players will be in progress.
‘Ant & Ash’ – Superlative stats
Aside from Young and Valencia, the latter of whom is still valued at £9m on Transfermarkt, United are already short of wide players that can add an extra dimension effectively. Matteo Darmian remains a lost soul, and with Luke Shaw all but certain to be on his way out of Old Trafford this summer, it does not take a genius to realise where Mourinho’s short-term focus must be in this summer’s transfer window.
As well as being two able defenders who can ultimately defend well and get stuck in, they also pose a great attacking threat, in addition to their good crossing ability. Valencia has been particularly adept at finding his teammates, boasting an average pass completion rate of 85% prior to the March international break. Both men have also proven reasonably talented when it comes to troubling opposition goalkeepers, with a shot accuracy rate of 50%.
So just who else could emulate United’s wingback wonders? Assuming United finish in the top four and remain on the Champions League gravy train, Republik has picked these three players as feasible replacements.
Seamus Coleman (Everton)
Coleman has been approached by United in the past, but at that time, Roberto Martinez had just taken Everton to a record Premier League tally of 72 points – miles ahead of a United team that had been disastrous under David Moyes in 2013/14.
Naturally, Coleman was going nowhere under those circumstances, having been near godlike throughout 2013/14. However, with United once again mixing alongside Europe’s elite, the Irishman could be tempted by Mourinho’s magic. What has impressed Evertonians most is the rate at which he has recovered from a year-long absence, after breaking his ankle while on international duty in March 2017.
He was man of the match in his comeback game against Leicester on 31 January, and Everton’s buy/sell price for relegation on Sporting Index has since plummeted. It is a move that would be met with universal approval from the Old Trafford faithful, but with Coleman turning 30 in October, it is this summer or never if United want to make the most out of the man from Killybegs.
Victor Moses (Chelsea)
Antonio Conte’s poor second season at Chelsea will need to take a much more macabre turn for this to be an easy move – but impossible is not a word in Mourinho’s vocabulary. He was, of course, a hugely instrumental part of the Chelsea squad that stormed to the title last season with 93 points.
The wingback system operated by Conte, with Mikel Alonso on the opposite flank, was utterly unplayable for most teams, and it cannot fail to have given Mourinho some positive ideas. Moses entered the English game as an outright attacking player, but he has found home in the wide areas, and his versatility is a huge asset to any team.
Despite being a flexible player where position is concerned, his effectiveness is determined wholly by the system used. Ultimately, there can be no middle ground – Mourinho must make Moses a focal point of his tactical plans, or pursue another wingback entirely.
Danny Rose (Tottenham)
He was deployed as a wingback in England’s 1-0 victory over Holland on 23 March, and adapted well after a slow start. While some of Rose’s decision making from that position requires improvement, he still represents the most cost-effective solution to United’s upcoming shortfall in the wide areas.
At 27, he has at least five ‘good’ years left in him, and it has been common knowledge for long time that he has desired a move from Tottenham. With Luke Shaw odds-on to move to another club, and Tottenham being the favourite specific club to take him in, a swap deal would make a lot of sense for Mourinho.