Williams follows in footsteps of some of great ‘righty’ left-backs
When Brandon Williams lashed home the half-volley that sparked his side's comeback at Bramall Lane on Sunday he showed why Manchester United rate him so highly.
The teenager, making only his second Premier League start, had been by no means great in the 70 minutes leading up to that moment as the Red Devils struggled to look a coherent force against one of the division’s in-form sides.
But when the ball dropped to him, he hit it with the assurance a naturally right-footed player has in meeting a half-volley with his body position correct and his head over the ball – it nestled in the corner of Simon Moore’s net a split second later.
Many neutrals who don’t know much about Williams probably feel it’s a bit harsh to throw a kid into the first-team in a position on the opposite side of the park to where he would be able to use his natural foot more often, but he’s been operating at left-back in the academy and reserves for the past few years.
The right-footed left-back is a phenomenon that appeared to be going out of English football with very few around at the top-level, bar Williams’ own Old Trafford colleague Ashley Young – a converted winger.
But some of the very best left-backs in the history of the game have been right-footed and some would argue the greatest left-back in United’s rich history is one such example.
In 12 years at Old Trafford, Denis Irwin made 296 Premier League appearances and won seven Premier League title medals, as well as three FA Cup winners medals (1994, 1996 and 1999), a League Cup winner’s medal and Champions League and Cup Winners’ Cup honours.
He was signed as a right-back by Sir Alex Ferguson and played there for his first season before the addition of England international Paul Parker saw him shunted to the opposite side.
The best left-back the world has ever seen, Paulo Maldini, was all right foot and used it to his advantage in shackling opposing wingers for many a year in Serie A, occasionally playing in central defence too.
Others of note include Paul Breitner, Ruud Krol and Andreas Brehme – all who played the position at the very highest (World Cup) level.
Over the years we have seen more and more players try to imitate Maldini’s style, including the likes of Philip Lahm, Gianluca Zambrotta, Javier Zanetti and Cesar Azpilicueta and all did more than passable impressions of the Italian legend.
Modern wingers love to cut in, much more so than in Maldini’s time, and Williams’ strength could be his defending on the inside in the long-term.
Either way, it is only the start of a promising career even if it does evoke memories of one of the greatest left-backs of them all.
Simon Barlow has a wealth of journalism experience and in-depth knowledge in a number of sports. As well as his extensive football knowledge, Simon is also well versed on cricket, tennis, American Football and cycling amongst others.