The sight of Manchester City’s murderous forwards targeting the right side of Manchester United’s defence in their 2-1 win at Old Trafford sent a clear message from Pep Guardiola to Jose Mourinho – Antonio Valencia at full-back is not good enough at the top level.
During his Bayern Munich days, Guardiola used the same tactic on the other side against Arsenal’s Kieran Gibbs, exposing the England left-back via Mario Gotze’s pace and trickery in a 2-0 Champions League away win over the Gunners back in February 2014.
Mourinho has multiple problems on his plate following a third loss in a row away to Watford, the first time United have failed to beat the Hornets in 30 years, but most seem fixable if the Portuguese is allowed the time to tinker.
Paul Pogba isn’t as bad a player as he has looked over the past few weeks, while Henrikh Mkhitaryan should be given a run at number ten instead of flagging captain Wayne Rooney when fully fit, yet right-back looks a position waiting to be filled in the red half of Manchester.
Valencia surely isn’t the answer and was the first player sacrificed by Mourinho as his side chased the game at Vicarage Road, with Marcus Rashford’s equaliser – which eventually counted for nought – coming less than a minute after the Ecuadorian’s removal in favour of Juan Mata.
No other Red Devils right-back has even made the bench in the Premier League so far this term, with Matteo Darmian restricted to a start in the 1-0 Europa League loss away to Feyenoord, where Timothy Fosu-Mensah was an unused substitute.
Fresh blood is clearly needed in the position, and Mourinho must be keeping half an eye on the resurgent form of Everton and Republic of Ireland stalwart Seamus Coleman.
United have been linked with the 27-year-old repeatedly in the past, but Coleman went somewhat under the radar during recent transfer windows after the Toffees’ disappointing last two seasons with Roberto Martinez in charge.
He may have only returned to Everton’s starting line-up a week ago after an ankle injury picked up over the summer, but Coleman looked better than ever in the 3-0 win away to Sunderland and 3-1 victory at home to Middlesbrough, scoring a brilliant individual goal in the latter match.
There’s no doubt he’d be hard to prize away from Goodison Park, but Coleman has long been thought world class in his position, so having to break the bank for such a signing shouldn’t put United off.
Mourinho and co are 3/10 to snap their three-game losing streak with an EFL Cup win away to Northampton Town.