It seems likely that United will look to bring in at least one new right-back this summer based on the players they’ve been linked with, and there’s one young prospect in Ligue 1 that should be catching their eye.
Reports this week suggests that Manchester United were in advanced talks with RC Lens to sign France defender Jonathan Clauss. It now seems likely that the France international will be joining Marseille instead, however United’s interest in the right-back highlights that it’s a position Erik ten Hag is eager to strengthen.
The club invested heavily in this area back in 2019, signing Aaron Wan-Bissaka for £50million. However the 24-year-old has failed to deliver at Old Trafford so far. He was the first-choice right-back under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, yet struggled for game time under Ralf Rangnick who often favoured Diogo Dalot.
Although perceived as a solid defender, Wan-Bissaka is often found wanting from an attacking perspective, a point captured by the fact he’s accumulated just eight league assists during his three seasons at the club.
Lens’ Clauss registered a standout ten assists plus a further five goals last season, therefore United’s interest in the defender suggests Ten Hag is looking to add more attacking profiles to his wing-back positions. The recent signing of Tyrell Malacia would affirm this thought process too.
A drawback of Clauss’ though, and perhaps a key reason why United didn’t pursue him further, is the fact he turns 30 in September. Ten Hag of course has an excellent pedigree in terms of working with younger players, and it’s more than likely he’d prefer to work with a more youthful profile that he can mould and shape to thrive within his philosophy.
This is why a move for a player like Lyon’s Malo Gusto would make even more sense. He proved to be one of the breakout stars in Ligue 1 last season, making 30 league appearances while registering four assists.
Although still just a teenager, the 19-year-old exhibits technical ability way beyond his years, which is in part thanks to the fact he originally started out as an attacking midfielder. He combined his technical ability with great stamina and pace to convert into a well-rounded attacking wing-back.
Not only is he a marauding presence up and down the right flank for Lyon, but he’s got measurable end product to boot. In fact, across Europe’s top five leagues last season, only six players accumulated a higher Expected Assist (xA) total (4.45) than the teenager, and only one of those – Liverpool ’s Trent Alexander-Arnold – plies his trade in the Premier League.
His defensive stats are mid-ranking from that same group of players, but two things are crucial to note on that. The first is that the France U21 international is still just 19, meaning he’s still some way off his prime years with plenty of development both physically and as a player to come.
Secondly, it’s likely that Ten Hag will look to prioritise attacking efficiency over defensive robustness in these positions this season given he intends to make his team one that presses high and dominates most opponents they face.
While there are no links between United and Gusto at this stage, there’s enough evidence above to highlight why there should be. Especially considering he was only willing to sign a one-year extension to his current deal which will now expire in just two years’ time.
This hints that he knows his future lies elsewhere, and a club like United would do well to swoop in and land the prospect for a very reasonable fee this summer.