Cristiano Ronaldo had Diogo Dalot’s back when Rio Ferdinand questioned his ability early in his Manchester United career.
Dalot has been a mainstay for Erik ten Hag this season, making 32 appearances at right-back across all competitions. He has two goals and three assists in that time and earned plaudits for his pinpoint cross which Scott McTominay headed in to earn a 2-1 win over Aston Villa on Sunday.
The 24-year-old joined United for £19million from Porto back in July 2018 and has now made 139 appearances for the club altogether. His future at the club previously appeared precarious after spending a season on loan with AC Milan in 2020/21, but he is now enjoying his most settled spell in the side.
Former United defender Ferdinand was one of those to question Dalot’s place in the United side, but he says Ronaldo convinced him he would come good. “Dalot needs a special mention,” Ferdinand said on Vibe with Five after the Villa win.
“He is someone I doubted early on. I remember speaking to Cristiano Ronaldo and said, ‘Is he really that good?’ – and Cristiano said he will work hard, make himself better and 100 per cent improve.
“He saw it behind the scenes so he knew that. I said to Darren Fletcher when I was at the training ground the other day that he has really impressed me. Darren said that he is a worker, he’s going to make himself the player he needs to be.
“I still think defensively he probably needs to work a little bit. But yesterday [against Aston Villa] I thought he was very good defensively. With the ball, that cross, if we have players running onto them, the forwards will make the runs and we will score more goals.”
Simon Stacpoole/Getty Images)
Dalot also earned praise from Ten Hag for his performance against Villa. “Everyone gets criticism but he is a fantastic player who is developing very well,” the Dutchman said. “He can play in so many positions and he is improving on crosses. He can score and his defending is improving so I am very pleased with him.”
Dalot has managed to nail down his position in the team at right-back and is now firmly ahead of Aaron Wan-Bissaka in the pecking order. Wan-Bissaka arrived from Crystal Palace for £50m in the summer of 2019, but could be let go in the summer transfer window when he will enter the final year of his contract.
United are planning for that eventuality, having sent scouts to watch Bayer Leverkusen star Jeremie Frimpong. They are far from the only side interested in Frimpong, who has six goals and six assists in the Bundesliga this season while playing on the right side of Xabi Alonso’s impressive table-topping team.
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