Manchester, United Kingdom | AFP | Manchester United’s acquisition of Aaron Wan-Bissaka for £50 million ($61 million) in June raised eyebrows for a right-back with fewer than half a century of senior appearances in a far less pressurised environment at Crystal Palace.
But the opening two games of the Premier League campaign have suggested the capture of the England under-21 international may be one of the most astute pieces of business United have conducted in recent seasons.
Wan-Bissaka has instantly made his presence felt, a fact borne out by the statistics against Chelsea and Wolves as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men have made a much-needed positive start to the campaign with four points from two tricky opening fixtures.
The nine tackles he made in the 1-1 draw at Wolves were the most by a player in a single game to date this season and the 15 he has completed over the opening two matches also left him top in that category.
The Wolves display also saw the 21-year-old touch the ball 115 times, the second most by any player in a Premier League game so far this term and an indication of his growing importance both on and off the ball.
Solskjaer is keen for his defenders to be able to pass their way out under pressure from the back, but most importantly the addition of Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire for a world record fee for a defender has tightened up a United defence that conceded 54 Premier League goals last season.
The Red Devils will be confident of another clean sheet this weekend when Wan-Bissaka faces his former employers Palace, who have yet to score in the Premier League this season.
– ‘Time to adjust’ –
But Solskjaer is keen not to put too much pressure on Wan-Bissaka, despite his promising start.
“It will take time for any player to adjust to Manchester United, apart from me, it took me six minutes (to score) of my first game,” joked Solskjaer.
“But I’m very happy (with him). We’ve got to be patient. It’s a long haul and it’s very important we get the right ones in.”
Wan-Bissaka represents one of a number of players to have benefitted from Solskjaer’s vow that he would place a greater emphasis on youth this season.
Existing first teamers such as Marcus Rashford, Scott McTominay, Andreas Pereira and Anthony Martial are being offered ever-more responsibility by the United manager while emerging stars such as Mason Greenwood and Axel Tuanzebe have established themselves as significant squad members.
That profile of player, blended with existing senior stars such as David de Gea, Juan Mata and Paul Pogba, is a combination that has excited United supporters, and Wan-Bissaka himself.
“What we have at United now is a good mix of young and experienced players and, speaking as one of the younger members of the squad, I think that’s important,” he said in a recent interview.
“We need people to set the standards to live up to, to set the tempo in games when we need it and the more experienced players in the dressing room are capable of doing that. It has been really easy to come here and feel a part of things.”