Aaron Wan-Bissaka was knocked back but is ready for Manchester United


From being knocked back by Cambridge United to joining Manchester United for a world record fee for a full-back inside two years.

It would complete a remarkable journey for Aaron Wan-Bissaka if the latter, a move United are in talks with Crystal Palace to try and make happen, materialises.

A remarkable journey that, for some youngsters might be too big a leap to get their heads around.

Certainly not for Crystal Palace’s brilliant young right back Wan-Bissaka, though.

Those familiar with the 21 year-old know exactly why his incredible rise has been possible and it is not only for his considerable talent.

Of course, that has played a huge part in him emerging as the Premier League’s and one of Europe’s best-performing right backs.

But to overcome all the obstacles and challenges he has faced in such a short time – and the biggest could be yet to come at Old Trafford – requires the sort of character Wan-Bissaka possesses.

Ask those close to him and they describe the south Londoner as someone totally unfazed and unaffected by all that is going on around him. Unassuming is another word that crops up.

He is also described as someone who doesn’t overthink things and, as he is not following a calculated, pre-planned journey through football, he is able to take any changes plus all the ups and the downs, in his stride.

In the high-pressure world of professional football these are all extremely positive character traits to have.

They allow Wan-Bissaka to step back and distance himself from the hype and fuss that surrounds top level football while others might wilt having found themselves unexpectedly thrust into the spotlight like he has been during the last 18 months.

And with his career path so far being a far from conventional one they have also helped him adapt to every step along the way.

England Under-21 defender Wan-Bissaka joined Palace as a prolific, Thierry Henry-idolising striker before dropping back to become a right winger.

Before his big Palace breakthrough he went on trial at Cambridge United ahead of a potential loan move only for then boss Shaun Derry to decide he was not yet ready to be a League Two right-winger.

Then came the training session and positional switch that changed everything, when he was tried at right-back, impressed up against Wilfried Zaha and Eagles boss Roy Hodgson realised he had unearthed a gem and said no when Wan-Bissaka wanted to go out on loan in January 2018.

Wan-Bissaka was not overly delighted at being pushed back at the time, so the story goes, though you would never know by the way he knuckled down and got on with learning his new role while playing for Palace’s Under-23s.

‘No it wasn’t [a hard process to become a first-team right back],’ he said. ‘I don’t think it was a big difference. It was just more defending that I had to add to my game and I like defending. Even when I was a winger I liked defending. They say I have got long legs so that’s an advantage for me I use.’

Right back was how he forced his way into the Palace team in February 2018 when Hodgson’s squad was hit by an injury crisis.

His first three games were against Tottenham, Manchester United and Chelsea. There were nerves understandably but also a calmness of mind to ensure he got his job done and justified Hodgson’s decision to put his faith in him.

Stepping up and tougher tests come with the territory he accepted. Moving to Manchester United would be handled with a similar unflappable approach by Wan-Bissaka.

He hasn’t looked back and in the 43 appearances that have followed his Premier League baptism of fire and shown why United are determined to strike a deal with Palace that could be worth up to £60m.

Last season Wan-Bissaka made the most clearances and interceptions, won the most tackles, had the highest tackle success and completed the most take-ons of all the Premier League’s full backs.

Also, no defender in Europe’s top five leagues won more than his 129 tackles.

The demands of the modern day full-back mean Wan-Bissaka will have to show he can be just effective going forward as his career progresses.

If his approach to the challenges he has faced so far in his fledgling career is anything to go by, he will deal with any new ones with minimal fuss too.


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