Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag will no doubt have a number of selection decisions to make ahead of tonight’s mouthwatering Europa League clash away to Barcelona, with the Dutchman set to be without the likes of Antony, Anthony Martial and Scott McTominay due to injury – as well as long-term absentee Christian Eriksen.
With Marcel Sabitzer and Lisandro Martinez also ruled out through suspension, it does appear that United’s squad resources will be well and truly stretched, with this trip to Camp Nou coming amid what is a hectic run of February fixtures with the club still competing on all four fronts.
One area in which the Red Devils do appear to have some depth, however, is at right-back, with the return of Diogo Dalot having ensured that there is now a real battle for a starting berth amid Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s recent resurgence, the Englishman having started seven of the last nine Premier League games.
For all Dalot’s attacking quality – with the Portuguese gem having provided three assists across all fronts this season – this upcoming meeting with the in-form, La Liga leaders may well spark the need for Wan-Bissaka’s inclusion, such is the latter man’s defensive prowess.
Will Aaron Wan-Bissaka play against Barcelona?
The £50m addition was forced to sit out the draw with Leeds United at Old Trafford last week due to illness and only featured off the bench in the reverse fixture just a few days later, although this evening’s encounter could provide the opportune time for the 25-year-old to be unleashed yet again.
While the former Crystal Palace man has previously been branded “useless” on the ball by club legend Paul Scholes, it is hard to argue with his strength defensively, having been lauded as “the best one-on-one defender for a full-back in the world” back in 2020 by Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher.
That quality is showcased by the fact that the £90k-per-week machine ranks in the top 1% in Europe for interceptions made among those in his position, as well as the top 3% for tackles as a marker of his destructive brilliance.
The seemingly impenetrable full-back only recently illustrated that innate tackling ability in the draw with Palace at Selhurst Park last month, producing a vital, last-ditch challenge on former teammate Wilfried Zaha at the death.
The Eagles talisman subsequently voiced his praise for Wan-Bissaka for what was a “great tackle“, with United likely to be in need of such crucial interventions up against the attacking talents that La Blaugrana have at their disposal – such as Robert Lewandowski, Ousmane Dembele, Raphinha and Pedri, among others.
That stellar list of names could well prove frustrated, like Zaha, in their attempts to try and beat the one-versus-one specialist, with the Croydon-born ‘spider‘ – as he has been affectionately dubbed – seemingly a wise choice on the right side of the defence this evening.
Although the 6-foot menace is far from perfect – having been culpable for Eddie Nketiah’s opener in the defeat to Arsenal after failing to track his man – he could well be the better option to face Xavi’s men, particularly with the aforementioned Dalot having been ‘caught cold‘ by Crysencio Summerville last time out, as per Manchester Evening News journalist, Samuel Luckhurst.
While it will be a difficult decision for Ten Hag to have to make, this away leg could be a chance for Wan-Bissaka to shine.