The modern game has thrown up some interesting tactical trends – traditional centre-forwards are increasingly out of fashion, wingers almost always play on their weaker side because they cut in and don’t cross the ball anymore, and goalkeepers are now expected to pass like midfielders.
On top of that is the evolution of full-backs as attacking players, even if teams aren’t playing them as wing-backs as has of course been done in the past.
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Perhaps the best example of this is at Liverpool this season, with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson both notching up double figures for assists, while the former broke the record for the number of assists provided by a defender in a single Premier League season.
While both still more than do their fair share of defending, their high energy levels mean they’re perfect for Jurgen Klopp’s demanding system that also sees them often entering the attack late on to play the final ball.
This has worked a treat for the Reds, and of course Manchester City were arguably already doing something fairly similar with the attack-minded nature of players like Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy, even if their individual stats were not quite as pronounced.
Perhaps it’s little surprise then that Manchester United have looked so far behind their rivals as they struggle to put together such a system – though having the players to make it work would be a start.
Step forward, Aaron Wan-Bissaka. The Crystal Palace starlet has just enjoyed a superb breakthrough campaign and the Evening Standard claim he’s a top target for Man Utd and expected to cost around £50million.
Even if that change in asking price now means he doesn’t quite count as one of our top ten players available for under £50m this summer, here’s a look at why this could be a crucial signing for the Red Devils and still in many ways a real bargain…
Who is Aaron Wan-Bissaka?
He’s a 21-year-old right-back with just 46 first-team appearances to his name at Crystal Palace, but he’s not taken long to leave a real lasting impression.
Wan-Bissaka rose through the youth ranks at Palace, first joining the club in 2009 when he was just 11 years old. Having started out representing the Democratic Republic of Congo at youth level, he’s now an England Under-21 international.
It surely won’t be long before the young defender gets a senior England call-up after his performances this season, as he quite simply looks the perfect modern full-back with his athleticism and quality at both ends of the pitch.
A real all-rounder, the only thing stopping him getting 50 or more caps for England is the small matter of that guy we mentioned above – Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Playing at Palace, it’s not always easy to make the most of his talent, so Wan-Bissaka perhaps lacks any particularly outstanding highlights.
However, a little look at this video below shows just how effective he is at both ends of the pitch, and a natural authority he seems to play with, making him look like he’s been playing at the highest level for five years rather than just a single season.
How much would he cost?
According to the Evening Standard, United are likely to have to pay as much as £50m for him, though they’re supposedly set to start the bidding at £25m.
Palace are no mugs and surely know what a talent they’ve got on their hands here, and just how important a player he could be for the Red Devils if he were to join.
While Luke Shaw is a decent enough option on the left-hand side, MUFC have had to rely on Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young on the right-hand side for far too long, and urgently need two energetic and attack-minded full-backs if they are to get anywhere near Liverpool’s level any time soon.
It’s highly unlikely United will find anyone else this good for less than £50m, so if they do end up having to fork out that much for him, it will probably look a bargain in a few years’ time.
United seem by all accounts to be leading the chase for his signature, though the Evening Standard also mentions Man City, while the Sun have also mentioned Arsenal as admirers in the past.
The 21-year-old will seemingly have the pick of the Premier League’s top clubs if he does move, but as noted above, this seems like a crucial deal for United in particular to get over the line.
The Sun have previously claimed United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is keen to sign young British players this summer, and Wan-Bissaka is undoubtedly one of the finest of the current crop coming through.
In much the way the likes of Alexander-Arnold and Robertson have improved tremendously at Liverpool, there’s another very talented young player here just waiting to be moulded and put into the right team.