Brandon Williams – One to Watch

Overview:

19-year-old full back Brandon Williams is another of Manchester United’s youth products looking to push into the first team picture. Yet to make a senior appearance, he has comfortably made the step up into U23 football, and has captained the side on four occasions already this season.

Featuring six times, he has started the season well, assisting five goals, including three against West Brom in a 5-0 win, as well as one against Rotherham in the EFL Trophy.

It has been a seamless transition from Under 18 football to Under 23 like many of the currently Manchester United youth team, adding to his two appearances he made at during the 2018/19 season. Captain of the U18 side, he made 16 appearances in 2018/19, plus a further 6 in the UEFA Youth League, scoring three times and assisting a further three goals.

Recently called up to the England U20 squad, he started both the 0-0 draw against Holland and 1-0 win against Switzerland, and will be hoping to add to these caps in the upcoming international break.

Style of Play:

Williams is an attacking, versatile full back who can play on either flank, but has featured mostly as a left back for U23s this season. United have looked to dominate possession in their U23 games this season, and he has shown he is more than comfortable with the ball at his feet, always offering an attacking outlet down the flank. He possesses pace and energy to get up and down the flank, meaning that if United are caught in possession, he is more than capable of making the recovery runs to track back.

He looks to overlap the wingers when given the opportunity, and shown by his statistics this season, he is a threat in the opposition’s final third. An example below shows one of his assists against West Brom on the opening day, where he was found by from a deep position in behind the defensive back line. His high starting position (circled) is indicative of where he looks to play and offering a wide outlet when United start attacks.

Receiving the pass, he beat the defender with an excellent first touch and use of his pace, before showing great composure to pick a player out in the middle for the opening goal.

Promisingly for United, what this also shows is his understanding with midfielder James Garner (who provided the pass), as this is often a passing combination that they often look to use going forward. His positioning will also suit the style that United play, as when they have a fully fit side, Rashford looks to drift in from the wing, leaving space for the full back to subsequently exploit. An example is shown below, and although he didn’t receive the ball in this move, it indicates how useful an outlet he can be.

Always looking to create 2v1s with the opposition full backs by supporting his wingers, his assist for the fourth goal showcased this. Breaking quickly, once again utilising his pace, he provided an outlet down the left as shown below.

Able to beat his man easily once again, he was dragged down in the box, winning his side a penalty, which was subsequently fired home.

However, one area where he can be targeted is through his aerial ability, and this was shown in the 2-2 draw to West Ham, where he was fault for the West Ham equaliser. Only 1.76m tall, he can be targeted by target men who look to drift wide, and West Ham looked to exploit this. Losing the first header, he had made a poor decision to go for the ball when his left midfielder had it covered.

Subsequently leaving his man, it created an overload which West Ham were able to exploit, and this decision making at the back will need to improve, especially when coming up against more physical players in senior football.

Sent off against Fulham U23s last week, it also showed a level of naivety, picking up a rash second yellow, making a cynical foul in this opposition’s half when already on a yellow (shown below). He will need to learn from what was a poor decision, but his disciplinary record does suggest it was a rush of blood as opposed to a common theme.

Summary:

Another promising youngster looking to make the step up from Manchester United’s academy, chances in the cup competitions could be upcoming for the young full back. With a Europa League campaign and a potential EFL Cup run on the horizon, Solksjaer might be tempted to throw his young full back in, and he looks more than capable to taking that chance. One to keep an eye on, a loan move could also offer him exposure to first team football and certainly benefit

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