Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s rise from the Crystal Palace academy to Manchester United fan favourite has been rapid and nothing short of remarkable. The 21-year-old full-back secured a £50m move to his boyhood club in the summer, after a spectacular year for Palace, playing a key role in their eventual mid-table finish.
The Croydon boy’s exceptional 2018/19 campaign saw the youngster finish the season with the best defensive stats of any full-back in the league.
Deal agreed! 🤝
Manchester United are reported to have reached an agreement with Crystal Palace to sign Aaron Wan-Bissaka for £50m 💰
He's one of the Premier League's most exciting full backs 🙌 pic.twitter.com/TergBLQ1lp
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) June 26, 2019
These stats are phenomenal on their own, but become even more impressive when you consider that he was playing as a striker or winger until just a couple of years prior. It wasn’t until the 2016/17 season when Wan-Bissaka transformed his career under strange circumstances. After being asked to fill in at right-back during a training session, he found himself winning the defensive battle against the Eagles superstar, Wilfried Zaha (talkSPORT).
The solid training performance against one of the Premier League’s trickiest wingers is arguably the moment that his drive towards the Palace senior team began. He secured his first-team debut in February 2018, the following season. His instant impact was clear to see and in his first full season of senior football, Wan-Bissaka was crowned both the fans’ player of the year and players’ player of the year for the 2018/19 campaign.
From Selhurst Park to Old Trafford
At the end of a crucial developmental season for the Palace academy graduate, his signature was sought after by an array of clubs, but none more attractive to the young Englishman than a dream move to Manchester United. After a bid was accepted and contract negotiations agreed, Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s rise to the Theatre of Dreams was complete. The transfer saw his market value rocket to £36 million, lifting him to the 6th highest value right-back in the world, moving ahead of the likes of Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta and Barcelona’s Nelson Semedo (transfermarkt).
It wasn’t just the ideal move for the player, but for the United fans too. Following a period of managerial uncertainty and defensive frailties, the fans were crying out for a good old-fashioned full-back who loves to defend. And it didn’t take long for Wan-Bissaka to solidify his place in the Red Devil’s back line and establish himself as a fan favourite.
Although featuring as part of an under-performing United side, he had a promising start to the season at Old Trafford, earning him his first senior international call-up with Gareth Southgate including him in the squad for Euro 2020 qualifiers against Bulgaria and Kosovo. However, due to a back injury, he was forced to withdraw from the squad meaning his first taste of life as a senior England international was over before it had begun. Nevertheless, it surely won’t be long until he features in another of Southgate’s squads.
What has Wan-Bissaka added to United’s side?
Since entering the frame at United, Wan-Bissaka has helped to shore up the defence alongside their other new signing, Harry Maguire. Although results have been inconsistent, Wan-Bissaka’s performances have been anything but, leaving him with the second-highest average rating behind only Marcus Rashford. The encouraging performances have shown every quality that drummed up so much interest in the full-back to begin with. His aggression and desire to win the ball back has been inspiring and he leads the squad with the most tackles per game (5.4) followed by next best, Fred (2.3). He has the most interceptions per 90 minutes of any player who has featured more than once, and ranks 1st and 2nd consecutively for most passes blocked and most crosses blocked in a United shirt (WhoScored).
There is still some debate on whether Wan-Bissaka has the attacking prowess of United full-backs of the past. He is yet to register a goal or an assist and has a crossing accuracy of 13%, 10% lower than his English rival Trent Alexander-Arnold (Premier League). However, his defensive solidarity and appetite to improve gives him the foundation to keep growing and become a mainstay in United’s side for years to come.
With the 2020 Euros swiftly approaching, Aaron Wan-Bissaka will hope to be in contention to be selected for Southgate’s 23-man squad, come the submission deadline on 2 June. If he can keep himself fit, and maintain his performance levels to the exceptional standard as we have come to expect from him, there is no reason why he can’t push the likes of Alexander-Arnold for a place in the starting 11.