Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers
Although there is a lot of discussion about how Manchester United could be improved, the right wing area is undoubtedly the biggest issue in the squad at present.
Despite spending over £500 million since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, the club has failed to recruit a natural player on the right flank.
Subsequently, this has caused an imbalanced look to the side, particularly when going forward, with much of the emphasis on United’s play coming from the left flank.
This raises questions about who should operate on the right this coming Sunday against Brighton in a game in which the Manchester club will be looking to make it two wins out of two in the Premier League.
Here are three players who could fill the void:
The most probable option that Jose Mourinho will go for will be the playmaker, Juan Mata.
Since arriving from Chelsea back in 2014, this has been the Spaniard’s predominant role in the side. Starting out on the right with a licence to drift centrally and dictate play from there, this was the role that Mata occupied against Leicester. In that game, he kept play ticking along nicely but rarely ever shone.
Action Images via Reuters/Andrew BoyersDespite being a wonderful passer and creator on the ball, Mata’s biggest downfall is his lack of pace. This was highlighted frequently on the opening day of the season as United continually failed to break forward on a counterattack due to Mata’s incapability to burst down the line.
With the likes of Paul Pogba, Fred and Andreas Pereira on the field, do Manchester United really need another playmaker? Mata played well against Leicester, though, and Mourinho will be hesitant in changing a winning formula.
Expect the Spaniard to feature this coming Sunday.
Having returned to Old Trafford full of confidence after the World Cup, Jesse Lingard could be a wildcard option to start at the Falmer Stadium this Sunday, a stadium that is familiar to him, having spent a spell on loan with Brighton during the 2014/15 season.
Similar to Mata, Lingard is a player who prefers to be deployed centrally. As a result, when he is played out on the right-hand side, he has a tendency to drift into the middle of the park and make runs into the box from there.
The Englishman’s movement differentiates him from Mata: his constant runs in behind the defence causes more direct problems for the opposition and forces them to drop deeper.
This is one of the factors behind Mourinho’s appreciation for Lingard. His work rate and energy is second to none in the current squad. This may play on Mourinho’s mind going into the Brighton game and so Lingard could be a starter on Sunday.
Since his arrival last January, it has been a surprise to fans that Mourinho is yet to deploy Alexis Sanchez on the right-hand side, a position where he flourished for Barcelona during his spell there. Instead, the attacking forward has been utilised almost exclusively as a left winger under Mourinho.
Out on the right, Sanchez would allow Manchester United more of an attacking threat than either Juan Mata or Jesse Lingard. With most oppositions recognising that Mourinho’s side are too heavily weighted toward the left, shifting Alexis to the right could frustrate their plans.
REUTERS/Andreas GebertIt would also allow a space on the left for Anthony Martial to be brought into the starting XI and would mean that Manchester United could field what would be probably be their strongest lineup.
The lack of right-wingers is one of the biggest downfalls for the Manchester United team at present. In a side that boasts so many creators, it seems remarkable that Mourinho still hasn’t fixed the problem.