Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has jumped to Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s defence and the right-back endured a tough afternoon in Manchester United’s 3-2 win over Brighton and says his willingness to improve bodes well for the future.
The Seagulls looked to have rescued a point as Solly March evaded the marking of Wan-Bissaka and Bruno Fernandes at the back post to squeeze the ball past David de Gea in the fifth minute of stoppage time.
But Neal Maupay’s handball in the area just moments later allowed Fernandes to seal all three points and the Portuguese made no mistake from 12 yards to get his side out of trouble once again.
It was an eventful match for Brighton forward Maupay, who opened the scoring in style with a Panenka from the penalty spot, before Lewis Dunk’s own goal and Marcus Rashford’s superb solo effort put the visitors back in control.
Brighton goalscorer March caused Wan-Bissaka problems throughout down the left flank and BT Sport pundit Joe Cole was one of many to criticise the defender’s performance at the Amex Stadium.
‘Solly March found himself in this position on numerous occasions,’ former Chelsea and England star Cole said shortly after the final whistle. ‘I’m here and I was screaming at Wan-Bissaka: “Look over your shoulder, look over your shoulder!” He had a warning.
‘He’s not done anything, Solly March, it’s a lovely ball into the position, he’s ghosted in and he’s finished it. He could have got three or four from there.
‘One of the things we picked up 20 minutes before that happened was Wan Bissaka’s body shape in that situation… he got caught three or four times.
‘You don’t get the chance at this level to be given a warning that many times.
‘They deserved at least a point out of this game, Brighton, and you do feel for them.’
However, Solskjaer felt the criticism aimed at Wan-Bissaka was unfair and called on the full-back’s United team-mates to offer greater support when targeted by opposition teams.
‘We’ve got our team shape and we don’t stop enough crosses down that left-hand side and we allow too many crosses in,’ Solskjaer said at his post-match press conference.
‘It’s also down to the team shape here and the sharpness. For me, we need to work harder from the front to stop crosses or from the sides and, yes, Aaron is improving as a defender, he is one of the best one-vs-one, he is practising defending back stick and he is a joy to work with.
‘He wants to learn so he’ll improve. Of course the chance towards the end he’ll need help from other players at the back stick.’
Asked whether opposition teams are likely to double up on Wan-Bissaka, United’s head coach responded: ‘Yeah, they might just play on the other side as well and get crosses in.
‘Every player in this league has got strengths and weaknesses and we all know Aaron’s strengths.
‘But one of his strengths is he wants to learn and wants to improve.’
Solskjaer’s men face Brighton again in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night before taking on Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham at Old Trafford next weekend.