Well, kids, it’s that time of year again: the Premier League has officially started. Some fans are happy, some are sad and some are trying to figure out what the hell is going to happen to their teams. Same as usual, really.
At Manchester United we are discussing many things: the possible arrival of José Fonte from Southampton, possible departures, Wayne Rooney’s almost biblical decline or how Paul Pogba is going to fit into this United side. But what about Timothy "Timbo" Fosu-Mensah?
The youngster was one of the few silver linings of last season, and he proved to be quite a surprise for those who were not familiar with the former Ajax player. Strong in the tackle, and comfortable on the ball, it’s fair to say that Timbo’s appearances with United’s senior team were encouraging and, at times, brilliant.
And perhaps the most outstanding aspect of his game has been his capacity to adjust to many different positions and, not unlike his compatriot Daley Blind, performing very well in all of them. While Fosu-Mensah plys his trade predominantly as a midfielder, he played with United’s senior team as a full-back on both sides of the pitch and as a central defender. That versatility could come in handy this season considering United’s upcoming busy schedule and ever present threat of another injury crisis.
Yet, despite his polyvalence, you can’t help but feel that Fosu-Mensah is been wasted as a utility man. Certainly, you cannot deny the pros of a utility man a la John O’shea but, in Fosu-Mensah’s case, it doesn’t seem like the best option for his development. So we decided to drop a little analysis of how and where this monster truck of a player should be playing in order to grow into the world class footballer that some expect him to be.
As a right-back
It was shown during last’s season, as part of the under-21’s and senior matches, that Fosu-Mensah has the potential to be a powerful choice at right-back. While Matteo Darmian has produced some weak performances there (and is probably leaving for Roma or Napoli, if the reports are true) and Antonio Valencia can be reliable but one dimensional — although he seems to be improving under Mourinho’s guidance — the Dutchman has the pace, skill and athleticism to make the position his own.
Last season’s visit to White Hart Lane was Fosu-Mensah’s moment in the limelight. The youngster impressed by providing some amazing clearances while playing as a right-back. It was a clear indication of his potential in that position that once he was taken off for Darmian, United just collapsed and lost the match 3-0. We can’t assume that the team wouldn’t have lost had Fosu-Mensah remained on the pitch, but it clearly shows that he can produce the goods in that position.
As a centre-back
A no brainer, if you think about it. A bloke who is tall, a bulldozer in the physical department and with great timing, could become one hell of a centre-back with the right preparation and game-time in the position. And therein lies the issue: United are stocked with options in central defence and they are mostly fairly young, like Eric Bailly, Chris Smalling and Daley Blind, with the possible inclusion of José Fonte. Add to that defensive equation the likes of Axel Tuanzebe and RoShaun Williams stepping through the ranks and you have a recipe for Timbo not getting to play there; that’s possibly six solid choices in the position, for the mathematically challenged.
Fosu-Mensah could be a massive prospect at centre-back, but it would require more time, which doesn’t seem likely, in the position and perhaps to work on not being to intense in when tackling. It’s a fun thought, but with Bailly’s psycho moments, that pair has the potential of breaking the record of Premier League red cards in a single season.
As a central midfielder
Pretty much everyone’s preferred choice. The idea of Fosu-Mensah stepping onto the pitch as a box-to-box midfielder, roaming throughout the entire match — like a sort of a Dutch Terminator, searching for the ball to then proceeding and obliterate the
human race opposition — is an appealing one. Timbo has the physical attributes and skills to make United stop regretting of not signing Michael Essien back in the day, because he has all the traits that made the former Chelsea player such a beast.
Unlike the centre-back scenario, United’s central midfield is stocked but not for very long. Michael Carrick is ageing, Bastian Schweinsteiger is close to leaving, if the reports are true, Ander Herrera might be close to his peak, Marouane Fellaini may not have a long-term future at the club, thus leaving Paul Pogba and Morgan Schneiderlin as the only choices at midfield in the long haul. Fosu-Mensah has a good chance of stepping into this area with some ease, and, considering José Mourinho’s admiration for the lad, it seems like a viable choice for Europa League matches.
Quite likely the best choice for him to develop is to play in midfield. He could grow into a more imposing version of Paul Pobga — perhaps lacking a bit in the skill department — and/or as a copy of Essien. I think we’d be happy with either case, really. And the prospect of Timbo and Poggers playing together at midfield is... fun, to say the least.
Well, since this is a democracy — at least until our overlords from other planets come to claim what is rightfully theirs —- we’ll leave it to you: What do you think is Fosu-Mensah’s best position on the pitch to develop? Join the debate!