Manchester United’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka has forged a reputation as one of the most defensively savvy full-backs in Europe since joining the club.
The Reds’ no.29 has shown his quality in the Premier League down the years against talented wingers such as Raheem Sterling (who he once named as his most difficult opponent), Sadio Mane and Heung-min Son.
However, on Thursday the defender could face something of a lesser-known quantity among English football fans, with Samu Castillejo or Alexis Saelemaekers likely to line up on the left-hand side for AC Milan in the first leg of our Europa League last-16 meeting.
Speaking to UEFA.com ahead of that clash, Aaron was asked about his defensive discipline and approach in big games. He also revealed that his trickiest assignment yet came earlier this term, during a European game.
Last time out: United 7 Milan 2 (agg.)Video
“I’d say Neymar,” Wan-Bissaka responded to the toughest-winger question.
“That was a player that was quite challenging, but I was always up for it, and I enjoyed it, the experience, to be playing against him. That meant a lot.”
Asked on how he dealt with the challenge of facing Neymar, during our 2-1 group-stage win at the Parc des Princes in October, Aaron said:
“I think for him, it’s a bit of both, depending on where he is on the pitch. He’s a player that likes to draw fouls, and so for me, if I’m up against him, it’s [the task is] just not to give him any fouls because that’s what he wants.”
Wan-Bissaka has enjoyed another stellar season in defence for United and no-one in the Premier League has registered more blocks so far this term. Aaron has a remarkable 93 blocks in 2020/21 with the next closest being Leeds United’s Luke Ayling on 60.
The United right-back also sits near the top of the charts when it comes to the highest number of tackles and has earned rave reviews for his defensive displays, with Sterling once again kept quiet at the weekend.
Aaron was asked about his thought process during big games and which qualities he feels are most important at the back.
“Defenders are most likely [to be] targeted on the pitch, to be taken on,”
“That comes down to concentration, awareness, and it’s something you have to be prepared for the whole 90 minutes.
“For me, I mainly look at what foot they are. That will be the main information that I’ll need, and it’s just about timing, showing them onto their weaker side and then taking it from there.
Watch a clip from Aaron’s interview.
“Concentration [is key],”
“It’s not always about diving in; it’s to wait for their move rather than me making the first move.”
“For me, [defending] is exciting, especially with the fans, the fans’ reaction. That keeps me going, and it just [makes me want] to make more tackles.”
Our no.29 was also quizzed about how his defensive strategy has changed in recent years to adapt to how the game is now officiated.
“Since VAR became involved, you’ve got to be more careful,”
“Depending on whereabouts you’re about to make the tackle, say, around the box, it’s quite crucial there, so that’s where the concentration comes in a lot.”
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WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY?
United are playing, that’s what!
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men face a tough task in the last 16 of the Europa League when we take on AC Milan. The fist leg, which kicks off at 17:55 GMT, could involve United defender Diogo Dalot, who is on loan at the Italian side this season. However, former Red Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been ruled out through injury.
Ahead of the game, the boss and Nemanja Matic have been speaking to club media. Make sure to check out our official channels during the day to see what they’ve had to say, as well as to consume the rest of our not-to-be-missed pre-match coverage.
United Daily: Round-of-16 readyVideo