Date:Monday October 20 2008
Right-back is still a problematic position for United despite having three players to call on there. But which one is the best?
Gary Neville, Wes Brown and Rafael da Silva were all handed starts this season and all produced good performances to stake their claim for the first-team spot.
Gary Neville has started the season quietly. He wasn't bad but wasn't exceptional either. The worst thing about him is his crossing at the moment, something which was one of his greatest assets. It was particularly evident against Villarreal that he is very far from his best as he sent cross after cross behind the goal or into the keeper's hands.
His tackling ability and positional sense remain undiminished as he demonstrated at Stamford Bridge where only fatigue prevented him from playing the full 90 minutes but produced an assured display. Concerns about his stamina and pace won't disappear now, he's probably not fit enough to play 45-50 games a season.
Rafael could be his son, biologically... The 18-year-old Brazilian is a prodigious talent and possesses brilliant technical ability as well as a ferocious shot. He's got lightning pace, too. But he's far from being the finished article.
I would not risk him against the best teams as he is not disciplined enough yet and likes to wander forward very often, joining in the attack, dribbling through defenders. Aalborg and West Brom could not capitalise on it but Arsenal or Villarreal would... Besides, he does not have the stamina to play the full 90 minutes and his lack of experience might lead to costly mistakes in big games.
Therefore, you have surely guessed it, I still think the best option is Wes Brown. His contribution to last season's successes is criminally underrated - he committed mistakes, sure, but we are much stricter with him than with, say, Evra or Vidic, simply because of his past, because he was known to commit dreadful things.
Last season he played from August to May and he was reliable and hard to beat even though he was far from the brilliance of Evra on the other flank. He found his opportunities rather limited this season but he was excellent at Blackburn and at the moment I believe that with all his faults, he's the best right-back in the squad. He's experienced enough, fit enough and balanced enough to do well against any team.
Most certainly, there will be a lot of rotation but there has to be some sort of pecking order. And that should be clear: Gary's the past, Rafael's the future but Wesley, I feel, is the present.
Date:Monday October 20 2008
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