Aaron Wan-Bissaka in a Crystal Palace shirt

Opinion: Why Roy’s 'robot' seems ideal for United

Sunday 30 June 2019 11:00

Sound-bites are everywhere when you are following football as interviews take place all over the world, before and after games, with fans clamouring to hear the latest words from the game's leading figures.

One of my favourite quotes from last season was uttered by a manager showing real humour while also expressing a great level of admiration for one of his players. It came from Roy Hodgson, the Crystal Palace boss and he was talking about Aaron Wan-Bissaka, the young defender who completed his transfer to Manchester United this weekend.

Back in February, the Eagles defeated Hodgson’s former club Fulham 2-0 in a London derby at Selhurst Park. The home manager was enthusiastic about his young full-back after another demonstration of top-class defending.

Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson.

“Last year, Aaron came to me and asked to go on loan,” revealed Hodgson. “I said ‘no’. Not long after that, he made the first team due to injury and he's never looked back. It shows I do make the odd good decision! He was outstanding today.”

And then the killer line. “He actually made a mistake in the 94th minute and I was relieved because I was starting to think he might be a robot."

The former England boss is not prone to making outlandish statements, quite the opposite in fact. He is always very considered in his judgement and never courts headlines or publicity. So this really struck a chord with me. Blimey, Wan-Bissaka really must be something special.

The statistics back this up and the positive impression he made in one of his earliest appearances, against United, had marked him out as somebody to watch closely. I must confess I wondered if he might be a potential weak link in that clash, won 3-2 by United thanks to Nemanja Matic’s sensational late winner, given his lack of experience.

I felt he was probably only playing because Tim Fosu-Mensah was ineligible, but I soon accepted I’d been badly wrong in any expectation that he may struggle. The rookie right-back was exceptional and clearly did not deserve to finish on the losing side. Hence, I am very pleased Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has snapped Aaron up this summer.

I have also noted how Wan-Bissaka's coach at Under-16s and Under-23s level was a certain Richard Shaw. Many United fans will remember he was the opponent Eric Cantona lashed out against at Selhurst Park in 1995, which led to his infamous red card and kung-fu assault on Palace fan Matthew Simmons.
Aaron was superb when he faced United at Selhurst Park in 2017/18.

The successive eight-month ban our brilliant Frenchman received contributed to the Reds missing out on what might well have been another Double in between our triumphs in 1994 and 1996. So Shaw’s latest part in our story is a much more positive one, helping shape Wan-Bissaka into a player of real talent who can make his mark at Old Trafford for years to come.

I am sure I speak for every United fan when I look forward to welcoming Aaron here with open arms. And if he can churn out robotic performances week in and week out, then that will be ideal for Solskjaer’s new-look side.


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