Sun. Feb 28th, 2021

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Manchester United could use Alex Telles in a wildcard new position

3 min read

It will take a few weeks before we know just how damaging Manchester United’s defeat to Sheffield United in midweek really was.

Yes, it was a shock home loss against the Premier League’s basement side which halted their title charge, but if it kicks the complacency out of the team then it might well be a valuable lesson learnt.

The response on the pitch will be fascinating.

Five changes against Sheffield United was again a bit too excessive as United struggled for tempo – yet the real issue was with the players who were given an opportunity while others sat on the bench.

Of all those calls it was the decision to start Anthony Martial which was the most baffling. He has been a shadow of the player he was last season.

Solskjaer’s faith in the Frenchman is somewhat admirable, with the former striker knowing all too well himself that one goal could drastically transform fortunes, but the blunt nature of the attack in the absence of Edinson Cavani needs to be solved.

After such a humiliating defeat it seems inconceivable Martial will start at Arsenal this weekend, that then begs the question who should take his place?

Cavani seems a certainty at centre-forward, but the options either side of him remain very much unconvincing. Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood have been unable to recapture their scoring exploits of last year, Amad Diallo is still adapting to life in England and Juan Mata’s impact on the team is diminishing despite his incredible football intelligence.

While this weekend’s game might be too pivotal for a wildcard selection it is certainly something which could be considered in the coming weeks as Solskjaer looks to reinvigorate his forward line.

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Manchester United lost 2-1 to Sheffield United as they passed up an opportunity to return to the top of the Premier League table.

There’s no time for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his players to feel sorry for themselves, though, with a game against Arsenal at the Emirates to come on Saturday.

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The answer could be one of those players he gave a chance to in midweek: Alex Telles.

Okay, a forward role for him might bring back memories of Louis van Gaal’s faith in Ashley Young as an auxiliary striker, but Telles’ nature as a wing-back could see him adopt a left-wing role if needed.

The former Porto captain showcased immense attacking threat during his time in Portugal with 26 goals and 57 assists in his role as an attacking full-back, albeit at the expense of some defensive solidity.

When playing at wing-back Telles possesses a passing accuracy of 72.6 per cent compared with 79.1 when in a more traditional defensive role, but by playing forward he has a crossing accuracy of 33.3 per cent and is successful in 62.5 per cent of his dribbles.

Compared with his rivals for a possible attacking role on the left the stats make interesting reading. Telles completes one in three of the crosses he swings into the box; Luke Shaw has a crossing accuracy of just 12.5 per cent, Marcus Rashford 25 and Daniel James 23.5.

The Brazilian also has an advantage over Rashford by completing 17 per cent more dribbles on average than the English forward, while James boasts an incredible 76.9 per cent dribble success rate when played in his favoured left wing position.

Given the excellent set-piece expertise of Telles it certainly makes sense to try and give him more time on the pitch, but with Shaw so solid at left-back it remains unclear how that will happen.

Perhaps a role on the left wing might present itself in the coming weeks, if it does then Solskjaer could do a lot worse than at least giving Telles a chance to make it his own.

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