It’s unfathomable that a club of Manchester United’s size and stature have failed to have an established left-back for over 4 years. Despite the fact the sorely-missed Patrice Evra left Old Trafford in 2014, an adequate replacement has still not been found. Darmian was switched to the left on numerous occasions, but never looked comfortable there, and the constant changing of his position seemed to completely erode his confidence. In the last 12 months or so, Ashley Young has performed well in the role, but the limitations of a right-footed player blunts his effectiveness. However well he has adapted, it still feels like a stop-gap solution.
Luke Shaw was the major signing, of course, the £30 million player who was intended to become United’s left back for the next decade. It’s widely acknowledged that he’s been a major disappointment. He possesses enormous potential, but his fitness, desire and attitude all seem to be lacking. Aside from a few stellar months in his second season, he’s underwhelmed and may well be shipped out this summer.
It’s clear United will looking to remedy this weakness in the forthcoming transfer window. There’s substantial speculation that United are trying to sign Alex Sandro from Juventus for a fee of around £50 million. Danny Rose has also been considered, but reports suggest Mourinho favours the Brazilian. At 27 years old, he’s approaching his prime, and , despite only earning 10 caps for the national team, he comes with a wealth of experience, having played 87 times for Porto, and a further 75 in Italy, including a significant number of games in the Champions League.
He’s a strong and dogged tackler, and possesses a good reading of the game. The qualities he can add at the top end of the pitch are vital, but it will be his defensive abilities that Mourinho places most importance on.
His preference for Ashley Young ahead of Luke Shaw have largely come from Shaw’s occasional lackadaisical nature in defence. Several times this season, he has allowed his opponent too much space, a frustration that Mourinho openly expressed on a number of occasions. It is a safe bet that whoever he buys will have the defensive ability, determination, and concentration that he demands.
That being said, Alex Sandro will also supply some flair to the role. Defensively sound he may be, but like most players from his country, he’s quick, energetic, enjoys dribbling with the ball, and attacking opponents. Much of United’s play focuses on creating room for the full-back to deliver the ball into the area, so the offensive side of his game will be crucial to his success. The fact he is powerful runner and an excellent crosser of the ball bodes well, as does the fact he has been used in his career as both a wing back and left midfielder, highlighting how comfortable he is in more advanced areas of the pitch. It’s that exact combination that Mourinho, and the team, sorely needs.
Comparisons with older players are rarely useful, and often lazy, but the fact he is often likened to Roberto Carlos is hard to resist, considering he was probably the best left-back of his generation. If Sandro can match even some of the impact and effectiveness of his fellow Brazilian, he will prove to be an excellent signing.
At the moment, it remains speculation, but it seems increasingly likely to happen. Ironically, it was Alex Sandro who replaced Patrica Evra at Juventus. He may soon be doing the same at Old Trafford.