United debutant Dalot handles the big occasion
Diogo Dalot’s encouraging debut was one of several positives to take from Manchester United’s win over Young Boys on matchday one of this season’s Champions League.
The Portuguese defender had to be patient for his first senior opportunity, having arrived from Porto in the summer with an injury, and United fans were intrigued when Jose Mourinho confidently labelled him the best right-back in Europe in his age group.
Dalot certainly made up for lost time with an impressively accomplished display at right-back, in what was at times an intimidating atmosphere at the 32,000-capacity Stade de Suisse.
It should perhaps be no surprise that the 19-year-old handled the occasion admirably, given he’s had experience in some pretty high-profile games already – albeit, the pressure of playing for United is arguably on another level, regardless of the opposition.
"His first match last season was big, a Portuguese derby – Porto v Sporting – and then three days later he played against Liverpool in the Champions League too,” Jose pointed out in his pre-match interview with BT Sport.
“He's a strong personality and has almost 100 caps at youth levels for the Portuguese national teams. It's a very good opportunity for him."
One early run, in which Dalot showed great acceleration and a couple of nice stepovers to beat Miralem Sulejmani down the right and whip a cross in, served notice of his threat going forward and he was a willing outlet on the flank all night.
Big fan of Diogo Dalot's opening 20 minutes. Looks one hell of a player.— Liam Canning (@LiamPaulCanning) September 19, 2018
There was a brief worry in the first half when he trotted over to the touchline to speak with the club doctor, though thankfully he only asked for water and not medical attention.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for Dalot and the rest of United’s back four, with Young Boys’ front two of Roger Assale amd Guillaume Hoarau posing problems with their pace and power, particularly in the early stages before Paul Pogba’s brilliant 35th-minute strike to break the deadlock.
But there was plenty on show to cheer the 1,600 travelling United fans camped in one corner of the ground, with Dalot reaching one dangerous cross ahead of the lurking Christian Fassnacht in the first half and generally getting the better of the hosts’ left winger all game, save for one unlucky slip that almost allowed his opponent in on goal on the half-hour mark.
With a lack of game-time – save for a couple of run-outs for our Under-23s at Old Trafford – you might have expected Dalot to be withdrawn in the second period. But he completed a valuable full 90 minutes to help the Reds see out an important and ultimately comfortable victory.
Dalot, first game but really impressed for someone 19, with game time he’s gonna be great— NOVELLL (@Novel_AVXII) September 19, 2018
Already love Dalot— Kashyap (@AngryYoungMan24) September 19, 2018
Antonio Valencia is, of course, United’s first-choice right-back but it’s apparent that our 33-year-old captain will not play in every game this season; indeed, Mourinho rested the Ecuadorian for this trip to protect his knee from the artificial surface in Bern.
The manager has other options in the position, chiefly Ashley Young and Matteo Darmian, and their experience counts for much. But if Dalot’s maiden performance in the red shirt is anything to go by, don’t be surprised to see him lining up for Mourinho’s men again soon.
The opinions in this story are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Manchester United Football Club.