Since Diogo Dalot signed for Manchester United in the summer of 2018 for a fee of £18 million, some fans have not been convinced about his talent and potential. However, I believe there are several reasons as to why he should in fact stay at United next season.
To briefly analyze his career since joining United, he started well in his first season, impressing in multiple performances such as his debut in a 3-0 win over Young Boys in the Champions League and in a Premier League match versus Fulham where he won the Man of the Match award.
At this point, Dalot began to look like a player who could be United’s right-back for the next decade. Jose Mourinho mentioned this and raved about his “fantastic potential”, at one point saying he could potentially emulate the career of club legend Gary Neville.
However, after sustaining multiple injuries, things started to go downhill for the Portuguese defender. He managed some appearances before the end of the season but after the famous win over Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, he found it difficult to impress Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. It was a positive first season, however, for a 19-year-old who had only played seven senior games prior to arriving at Old Trafford.
In his second season at the club though, he was given very little playing time. The Portuguese full-back made 11 appearances in 2020/21, averaging 52 minutes per game he played. Even when Dalot did play, it was usually the first time in weeks or months, making it difficult for him to gain match fitness and sharpness.
Following a disappointing 2019/20 campaign, Dalot was loaned out to AC Milan. At Milan, manager Stefano Pioli trusted the United loanee and awarded him 33 appearances. Dalot managed 2 goals and 3 assists in the 2020/21 campaign, causing many United fans to trust his potential again.
It was only natural that Dalot took time to adapt to Italian football. He ended the last few months of the season really strongly, playing a role (Starting or coming off the bench) in each of Milan’s last nine games in Serie A.
His form for Milan and Portugal U21’s earned him a surprise call up to the senior Portuguese team for the Euros after Manchester City’s Joao Cancelo tested positive for COVID-19.
When you think about how Dalot’s career has progressed, he’s finally getting into match rhythm and his development is going well. He managed to avoid injury and play a respectable amount of games for a top side in Milan last season and I believe it makes sense to call him back and give him a chance at United because of this.
Looking at United’s current options at right-back, the only players who specialize in the position are Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Brandon Williams. While Wan-Bissaka looks set to be United’s first choice in the position for years to come, Williams isn’t yet trusted by Solskjaer to deputise for him, leading to the former being overplayed in 2020/21. United a player who can be trusted to play that role and Dalot did it for the entirety of last season in a very good team.
At the beginning of the summer, United were heavily linked to Atletico Madrid and England right-back Kieran Trippier, for a reported fee between £10-12 million. I believe Trippier would be a great signing for that value and with his experience, he’d likely do a better job than Dalot. However, since then, reliable sources have confirmed Trippier is valued at £34 million – a valuation which is likely to turn United’s head elsewhere.
The fact that AC Milan want to keep Dalot and their fans want him to stay at the club, tells us thhat he played an important role in the AC Milan team. I’m not saying he’s the second coming of Cafu, but what I am saying is that at 22 years old, with a lot of development ahead of him, he is most definitely good enough to serve as a second-choice player in Solskjaer’s side.
If it doesn’t work out then it is not the end of the world. There are other options in the transfer market and perhaps by next summer, the promising Ethan Laird could be ready to step in, but Dalot deserves his chance and I believe if he does, he’ll take it.