The Croatian international has impressed for Atletico Madrid, making over 30 appearances this season and helping them win the Europa League. Vrsaljko’s performances have impressed Jose Mourinho, who is on the search for a new right-back.
Antonio Valencia has been United’s undisputed first-choice right-back for the last few years and has been one of the most consistent and reliable performers at Old Trafford.
However, Valencia will turn 33 in August and his deputy Matteo Darmian is surplus to requirements at United, having hardly played this past campaign.
That makes the signing a right-back of utmost importance if Mourinho’s men are to challenge Manchester City for the title next season. Indeed, Vrsaljko fits the bill perfectly at Old Trafford as the Croat is equally comfortable playing on the left-hand side of the defence.
It’s well known that Atletico Madrid’s strongest area is their defence, as they have La Liga’s best record in terms of goals conceded this season. Manager Diego Simeone usually fields a very consistent backline and Vrsaljko has been part of that.
After signing from Sassuolo in 2016, Vrsaljko has gradually developed his game at Atletico, establishing himself as the first-choice right-back under Simeone. The Croatian star had to compete with Juanfran for the right-back spot and he succeeded in ousting the Spaniard, who has endured an injury-hit season.
What adds more value to Vrsaljko is his versatility as he is equally adept playing at left-back and if needed, he can operate further forward in midfield as well. He is blessed with good technique and composure on the ball, with his crossing ability being one of his striking attributes.
The 26-year-old is also good at linking up the play and can deliver wicked crosses into the box with both his feet.
Vrsaljko is not a speed bullet but has a good burst of acceleration. With his energy and intensity, he can trouble the opposition. The Croat is very good in ball retention and while he may not be too physical, he is an intelligent player who certainly knows how to make the best use of his strengths.
The former Sassuolo man is an attacking right-back, often seen taking up dangerous positions in the final third, delivering pinpoint crosses into the box for his teammates to feast on. He may be a bit naïve defensively and can get caught out of position but the 26-year-old certainly has the pace to recover.
It’s worth noting that Valencia can realistically offer top-level football for hardly the next couple of years. He will be 33 next season and Mourinho definitely needs to replace one of his most trusted lieutenants in defence.
Strong in the challenge and composed in possession, Vrsaljko could ideally be the man to replace Valencia at Manchester United.