Could Fabio be Manchester United’s next great winger?

Fabio, Rooney, Valencia

Unlikely to feature much at left-back next season, could Fabio Da Silva play a role on the left wing?

Following comments from Alexander Buttner that he would not be going on loan next season, Fabio Da Silva’s path to the Manchester United first team seems harder than ever.

While he once had one man ahead of him in Patrice Evra, he now has two. And so when he returns from his spell at QPR, both he and his manager have a decision to make.

And yet it shouldn’t have been like this, because before arriving at Old Trafford, Fabio was hailed as the better of the Da Silva brothers. But it is Rafael who has grown into one of the best attacking full-backs in the country.

Much of that is down to circumstance, as Rafael arrived as Gary Neville’s career was drawing to a close. Fabio on the other hand, arrived just as Patrice Evra had cemented his place on the opposite side.

And so while Buttner talks up his long-term future as United’s left-back of choice, the “better” brother is still to make his breakthrough since arriving in 2008.

That may be doing a disservice to Rafael. For a time, both players were competing for the right-back slot in the wake of Neville’s retirement and Rafael ultimately won.

But there is hope for Fabio; although it requires a re-think from the player and a manager willing to take a chance.

Prior to his arrival at Old Trafford, the left-back was hailed for his goal-scoring ability and forward drive.

As fast and direct as he was, he also had an outstanding shot; one that saw him finish as Brazil’s joint-top scorer in the 2007 FIFA Under-17 World Cup.

In just 13 appearances at that level, he scored 10 goals, at the same time captaining the side.

Having begun his career as a defensive midfielder, Fabio’s speed and skill were always better suited to a role on the flank. But they are skills that fit the role of a winger just as much as a galloping full-back.

Sir Alex Ferguson has played Fabio as a left-winger in the past, but with so much competition ahead of him, it was a familiar tale for the unluckier twin.

And yet this season has been one of great disappointment for United’s wide men. And while Antonio Valencia is beginning to regain some form, Nani is likely to leave this summer and Ashley Young remains an erratic and risky selection.

The arrival of Wilfried Zaha won’t make it easy for Fabio to stake a claim. But he deserves a chance.

During his time as a United reserve, Fabio proved to be as good in front of goal as he had for his national side. His hat-trick against Rochdale spoke of a dynamic and confident finisher, while an outstanding run and volley against Northwich spoke of better things to come.

At just 22, Fabio still has time to be a first-team regular at United. With time and opportunity, his brother has shown what is possible. But next season will show whether there will ultimately be one or two Da Silva’s in United’s future.

Do you think Fabio should be given the chance to play on the wing next season?  And who should be second-choice left-back, Fabio or Buttner?

image: © wonker

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