Manchester United defender Diogo Dalot has highlighted Erik ten Hag's urgent need for depth at right-back ahead of the January transfer window.
Dalot's suspension for United's final Premier League game against Fulham will live long in the memory of their manager. Ten Hag watched on as Tyrell Malacia, albeit out of position, struggled to fill in on the right in the Portugal international's absence.
However pleased the Dutchman would have been with Alejandro Garnacho's 93rd-minute goal, he would have been equally concerned over the prospect of what further suspensions or injuries to Dalot will mean to his side's setup going forward.
The modern full-back, one that can contribute both defensively and higher up the pitch, is an essential part to Ten Hag's philosophy as a manager. Dalot has excelled in this role, as he demonstrates his ability to be a threat in attack while also helping his side find some stability in defence.
Understanding the demands of your manager is vital if a player wants to succeed when a new coach arrives, and being able to adapt their style to the tactical set-up being asked of them is a truly valuable skill for long-term success in football.
Dalot has made it clear that he has aligned his thought process with the Dutchman's when it comes to his role at full-back, which has seen him enjoy a fine season so far.
Speaking to The Times last month, he said: “I [haven’t been] in the football world for too long because I’m still young but, from what I’ve seen, full backs are becoming one of the most important parts of the game. Not just for every manager but for every team, and football fans are starting to look to full backs as an important role.
“I’m not saying full backs are fighting for the Ballon d’Or but at least people are seeing us as an important part of the game and, tactically, you could speak a lot of things about it.
“We’re the first players who start to build up from the back. When you’re pressing, you want to press when the ball goes to the full backs. The full back is often the one who changes the team’s shape with their positioning. When switching play, the full backs are one of the first players you try to look for. So, more or less everything ends on full backs these days.
“And now, you are seeing that full backs are able to play different positions, playing a little bit more on the midfield, doing almost like double sixes, and playing as No 8s, No 10s. I like it because it makes me try to be complete.
“And I really like this manager. He asks me to do different things, different types of roles in different games and I just try to adapt as much as I can.”
The drop-off in ability from Dalot will alarm Ten Hag, as Aaron Wan-Bissaka, although injured for the majority of the season, does not appear capable of filling in the role required of him by the Dutchman. Failing the former Crystal Palace defender, the other alternatives that are currently available to the United manager include moving Victor Lindelof out to the right or, as shown against Fulham, Malacia switching from left to right-back.
Dalot's performances have been superb, but his comments show that he truly understands the role that Ten Hag wants him to carry out. If the United manager did not know that he desperately needed backup in that area before the match at Craven Cottage, he certainly does now.