The rebirth of Aaron Wan-Bissaka has been one of the most compelling storylines of Manchester United’s season.
Signed from Crystal Palace in the summer of 2019 for the princely sum of £50million, Wan-Bissaka has struggled to convince United supporters of his merits as a modern full-back.
While his defensive aptitude has never been in doubt – no winger in the country relishes coming up against the tarantula legs and adhesive-strength marking of the 25-year-old – watching Wan-Bissaka’s contribution to attacks was more painful than your average colonoscopy.
But, in a development greeted by scores of raised eyebrows, there’s been an improvement in this regard; few will forget his George Best-esque dribble in the derby win over Manchester City in January.
And Wan-Bissaka chose the setting of the national stadium and a tense, taut FA Cup semi-final against Brighton to demonstrate his transformation into the millennial Stanley Matthews.
The game was deadlocked when the United full-back received possession just inside the Brighton half and chose to act as a laxative for the opposition’s nervy defence.
Shifting the ball onto his right foot, Wan-Bissaka held off Alexis Mac Allister in a show of strength that made Popeye look like a stick-limbed Warhammer enthusiast before a burst of pace left Pervis Estupinan choking on a dust sandwich.
But Estupinan’s ordeal was far from over. Having foolishly scrambled back to dispossess the United defender, the Ecuador international found himself bamboozled by a show of wizardry rarely spotted outside of Severus Snape’s classroom.
Wan-Bissaka tied his opponent in knots with a string of preposterous step-overs before executing a Strictly-winning side-shuffle to escape his opponent’s attention.
His cut-back found Antony, whose following attempt to set up Casemiro led to a delicious scramble that wouldn’t look out of place on Hackney Marshes. It also stood in direct contrast to the majesty of Wan-Bissaka’s creativity and poise.
Stop that Wan Bissaka. pic.twitter.com/cqUfvO6GE1
— Stop That Football (@stopthatfooty) April 23, 2023
Wan-Bissaka has been the topic of much transfer speculation this season, with rumours circulating that Erik ten Hag will be looking to sign a right-back this summer and jettison the former Crystal Palace man.
“It has been my intention to stay but during that period (out of the team) my aim was just to play, everyone loves playing and it makes me happy,” Wan-Bissaka told The Telegraph about the constant speculation over his United future.
“During that time I would do anything to play again. I am happy here, I have been happy since I’ve joined and that is what I worked for and what I continue to work for.”
All of Wan-Bissaka’s starts in the 2022-23 campaign have come since the World Cup break, and he has said of United’s bid to end the season with more silverware and Champions League qualification to their name.
“That was our aim, to get the top four, and that is our target. We have had some injuries which were not good news to us but at the same time there is nothing we can do. The best thing we can do is stick together and get as far as we can.”
With United hobbling to the end of the season, with Champions League qualification and whipping City in the Cup final the remaining goals, Wan-Bissaka will hope to play himself into Erik ten Hag’s plans for next season.
He’ll do his chances no harm if he continues to produce X-rated filth that delighted our senses on Sunday.
By Michael Lee