Aaron Wan-Bissaka on the ball against Leeds United

Opinion: Wan-Bissaka assist bodes well

Only seven minutes had elapsed at Optus Stadium on Wednesday when Aaron Wan-Bissaka did something to dispel some of the preconceptions about him.

The England Under-21 international was clearly one of the best right-backs in the Premier League last term, performing consistently throughout the campaign for Roy Hodgson's Crystal Palace side.

A player with undisputed potential, it has been universally acknowledged that his defensive work is of the highest calibre, with his smothering tackles an impressive feature of his game. In my view, the transfer looked like something of a no-brainer.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka gets the ball across to Mason Greenwood against Leeds.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka sets up Mason Greenwood's goal against Leeds.

Yet, as United closed in on his signature, some assessments I read seemed to throw doubt as to the wisdom of the move. It was claimed Wan-Bissaka was not as impressive going forward and this could render him unsuitable for his role under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. All of this despite operating as a right-winger during his Academy days with Palace and having the ability to dribble past opposing defenders.


Perhaps it was based on the statistics that show he managed only three assists for the Eagles from 42 appearances and has yet to score at senior level. Is it evidence of a lack of attacking potency or merely the possibility that Palace play a different style, and that much of their thrust going forward is provided by former Red Wilfried Zaha, with Wan-Bissaka somebody charged primarily with defensive responsibility?

The likelier explanation was people have watched the 21-year-old far more than I have and are well placed to offer such judgements. It was being used as a question mark against our new boy, which must have had some firm basis somewhere along the line.

The fact it has taken only his second 45-minute appearance to register an assist, for Mason Greenwood's opener against Leeds United, bodes well. It already indicates he will thrive on the sort of passes Paul Pogba threaded through the Yorkshire side's defence in Perth and that, when in those positions, he can deliver the kind of telling ball that was greedily gobbled up by Greenwood for his maiden senior goal.

So, it's early days and, obviously, only a pre-season friendly. Wan-Bissaka will probably need time to settle at United but any perceived shortcomings in his attacking game already appear to be, well, let's say, borderline scaremongering. And, for me, this is because the narrative around the Reds' close season seems to have been one of negativity, which could arguably be understandable after the disappointing way Ole's men finished the last campaign.

Hence, on social media, in particular, there appears to have been an attempt to portray all of the club's business in an unflattering light. Quite how tying Marcus Rashford – a homegrown local lad and first-choice forward for England at 21 – to a long-term contract could be reported with any sense of pessimism was mind-boggling. 

Aaron Wan-Bissaka moves the ball forward against Leeds United.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka has already made a favourable impression during Tour 2019.

Our other new boy, Daniel James, was viewed as a gamble but is that not the case with all young players snapped up from the lower divisions? The early signs are positive from the Wales international too. His pace and desire have proved startling, but nobody will be getting carried away yet –  least of all the winger himself.

I feel the general reaction to the signings at our top-flight rivals has been in stark contrast even if, in truth, the top clubs have not done an awful lot of business yet. I certainly do not doubt the quality of Manchester City's Rodri and Tottenham's recruit Tanguy Ndombele, for instance, but believe it can be argued that much of what they offer, right now, is still largely potential. Again, others are much better placed to gauge the value of their work at Atletico Madrid and Lyon but some of the hyperbole surrounding their arrival in England was a touch surprising to me.

I've seen it claimed Rodri will be hailed as the best defensive midfielder in the world by the end of the 2019/20 season, while Ndombele, according to one respected observer, is “going to completely transform Spurs as a club”. With only seven and four caps for their respective countries, Spain and France, it might be sensible to contest they both could take time to reach such heights and I would imagine they will require at least some adaptation to the Premier League.

Wan-Bissaka and Andreas answer your questionsVideo

Of course, players can hit the ground running and become instant successes. But others do not justify the hype that envelopes their signing for a new club. In a football world ever increasingly obsessed by transfers, I cannot help thinking that the perception of United throughout this window has been unfairly tinged with negativity. 

Due to the vast popularity of the club, we have already been linked with over 100 players and a new name emerges virtually every day. Obviously, much of this speculation cannot be true but it generates noise on social media. When targets apparently emerge, it is often accompanied with a suggestion United will pay over the odds for their signature, even if nobody can really tell whether any club's valuation is unfair or not. 

I appreciate I am biased and the proof will, ultimately, be in the pudding, but the captures of Wan-Bissaka and James look, even at this ridiculously early stage, like pretty shrewd investments. They are young, eager to learn and appear to have the right attitude in order to become favourites with the fans. That view might not be fashionable at the moment, but it may just be one that proves right in the long term.

The opinions in this story are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Manchester United Football Club.

Our third pre-season game is against Inter Milan in Singapore on Saturday at 12:30 BST. As with all the pre-season games, it will be shown live on MUTV.