The Brazilian has been one of the most productive players in Portugal in last couple of seasons.
Among the various problems that need solving for Manchester United to start challenging for the Premier League title again, the left-back spot also needs refilling. Luke Shaw may have become a more reliable defender in the past few seasons, but his attacking inadequacy have forced the club to look for a brighter spark in Alex Telles. A comparatively unknown figure in Europe, the Brazilian left-back has earned the reputation for being among the most productive full-backs in Portugal with his brilliant overall work.
Described as a ‘playmaking defender’ by legendary Brazilian left-back Roberto Carlos, the 27-year-old comes from a similar class of defenders who can act as auxiliary wingers whenever required. The ability of Alex Telles to create opportunities is highly impressive and over the last three seasons, he has scored 18 goals and provided 29 assists in Liga NOS for Porto – which is class apart from the full-backs at Manchester United.
The Brazilian loves going forward with pace and tenacity, having the intelligence of how to penetrate defenders and find spaces to burst into the box. But what really stands him out from Shaw (who can also do so), is his final delivery which is really accurate on most occasions. In the 2019-20 season, Telles averaged 1.8 key passes and 1.3 shots per game (stats via WhoScored), miles ahead of Shaw’s 0.8 key passes and 0.5 shots every 90 minutes.
Luke Shaw is still very indecisive with his delivery and not nearly as accurate, with his crosses either going all the way into the corner flag or missing the players inside the area, to which Alex Telles can be a breath of fresh air. While his movement is similar in bursting into the box, Alex Telles is intelligent enough to time his crosses perfectly by predicting the movement of his teammates.
Alex Telles is also much more decisive, so he knows what kind of a cross is more likely to reach its target. His crosses can be especially beneficial for Anthony Martial, who is often derived from quality opportunities inside the area and has to move away to create stuff for himself. Having a reliable wing-back like him will also unlock Marcus Rashford’s shackles.
Indeed, Rashford can operate more centrally to aid Martial and add more bodies inside the area, troubling the opponent defenders with his fiery movement. The Brazilian left-back’s ability to deliver from set-pieces can also benefit Manchester United, who really lack a left-footed set-piece specialist in the team. But of course, the left-back is not only being brought for his attacking prowess but also because he’s well capable of holding his own defensively.
While perhaps not as settled at the back as Luke Shaw, Alex Telles is aggressive and assertive enough to trouble wingers all day long. He isn’t afraid of putting in feisty challenges to rattle his opponent and is clever enough in making crucial interceptions, triggering counter-attacks. Due to his height, Alex Telles is also dominant in aerial duels and will add that extra protection whenever dealing with teams trying to trouble them with persistent crosses.
But the major reason behind his possible signing is the unpredictable attacking intensity he’ll be able to bring. With Telles as an option and Shaw looking solid as a left-sided centre-back last season, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can often revert to a 3-5-2 formation – making his side defensively sturdier yet at the same time being able to commit more bodies forward.
The 27-year-old can also be much-needed competition to motivate Shaw into improving his attacking output and maybe the Brazilian can also teach the English left-back a few things about improving his final delivery. Alex Tellles will effectively be a solid alternative to Shaw and help diversify Manchester United’s style a bit, especially in the way they operate through that left-wing.
Alex Telles is not only to improve depth in the club’s left-back department. He’ll act as a perfect piece to solve multiple puzzles in the system. With his brilliant attacking intensity and commendable defensive sturdiness, he could finally be the modern attacking full-back Manchester United have been lacking for quite some-time and help them be more exciting to watch.