Wan-Bissaka: How we've improved defensively
Rampaging right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka credits stronger bonds and improved communication as the reasons behind Manchester United’s imperious defensive record in recent months.
That superb record was improved on Sunday afternoon when Wan-Bissaka and United produced an excellent performance to beat local rivals Manchester City 2-0 at a raucous Old Trafford.
In an exclusive interview that appeared in the matchday programme, United Review, our summer signing from Crystal Palace offered his view of the defence, the impact of our new club captain Harry Maguire and his effort to finish top of the Premier League’s tackling chart…
Our defensive record has been substantially improved in recent weeks, with a surge in clean sheets compared to the first half of the campaign – what’s changed?
“I’d say the partnerships between us have improved and we’ve been growing together. You can see it in the clean sheets. That’s always the main aim: to get the clean sheet, then the team can get the win. I think it’s down to better communication. Sometimes the formation changes, so we’ve been getting used to both five at the back and four at the back, and the communication has helped. I don’t have a preference [between the two defensive systems]. The five at the back allows me to get forward more at times during the game.”
You’ve said before that you were keen to keep improving your forward play – how do you think that has been going?
“Yeah, I think that process has been going in the right direction. I’ve gotten help from the team and the coaches, showing me the way forward. I stay out after training to do extra sessions so that I keep improving all the time and I’m ready to play at my highest level every week.”
So you must have enjoyed your assist for Anthony’s header at Chelsea last month…
“Yeah, I did [laughs]. He was grateful for that, he told me after!”
“Yeah, always. When we step out, you can just feel it. We’re more organised, we’ve got a great group of defenders here and we are all ready for the challenge.”
Harry Maguire has stepped up to become captain since Ashley Young left – how important has he been in shoring things up?
“The captain has one main job: be a leader for the team. Harry’s stepped in to do that role because that’s what he’s good at and he’s doing a great job.”
“Yeah, Mason’s been great. As soon as I joined, I noticed him. I enjoy playing with him and I enjoy our link up down the right.”
He’s scored a lot of goals already; what does he bring to the team?
“Goals, literally [laughs]. In and around the box he’s made a big effort in taking his chances. It’s something that he knows he’s good at: taking that chance and when to take it.”
Where is he at in his development right now?
“The next stage for him would just be to keep going, keep doing what he’s doing, make that place, that position, his. No-one knows just how good he could become, but he’s definitely going in the right direction.”
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“He’s brought a lot. You can see that he’s brought goals, assists… you can see how everyone plays around him when he’s on the pitch. He’s confident, he wants to play forward, create chances. He’s sharp, quick, hard to mark.”
He’s got presence, always demanding the ball, taking risks – does that lift everybody else around him?
“Yeah, you can see that he lifts everyone. Him being on the ball makes sure that others make runs because they know he’s capable of giving them that ball.”
What has he brought to the squad off the field?
“He’s always happy, always smiling, always wants to make conversation with you.”
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You’ve won individual honours so far in your career, but no team trophies so far - what would a first piece of silverware mean to you?
“It would mean a lot to me. I came to this club to win trophies and I know that this team’s capable of winning trophies.”
Do you think we’re having a good season overall?
“I think it’s a process. We’re going in the right direction and that’s what we’re aiming for.”
This is a developing United team - could that first trophy be a launchpad for more?
“Yeah, I think that will help a lot, getting our hands on the first trophy. It will boost our confidence and help us go on to the next. That’s how Ole wants us to think: he wants us to get our first trophy, move on to the next one and just keep going for others.”
There’s also a real battle to finish in the top four in the Premier League. How would you assess that battle?
“I think our aim is to go game by game and just put pressure on the teams above us. Every battle is important to us and I think that’s the kind of thing that will help us get to where we want to be.”
You’re also still only in your first season, of course. How would you assess your own campaign so far?
“It’s going in the direction that I want it to go, I’m working hard and improving my game all of the time, I just want to continue doing that.
Finally, you said at the start of the season you wanted to be on top of the tackling charts at the end of the season – how do you feel you’re doing there?
“I think I’m second at the moment [behind Leicester City’s Ricardo Pereira], and I’m happy with that for now, just to be right up there. First place is the target by the end of the season!”
This interview first appeared in Sunday's edition of United Review.