Ritchie De Laet has come a long way from being classed as a youngster brought to bolster the reserve team to now being considered a good prospect, capable of at least becoming a future squad player. His sudden rise has been impressive; he is now on the edges of the first team and is becoming a regular on the bench. He capped off a splendid 2009/10 season by being voted as Manchester United Reserve Player of the season.
De Laet completed his second season at United making two Premier League appearances and three appearances in the League Cup. His first start of the season came against Wolves on 15th December 2009; he then featured in the defeat against Fulham as United struggled to cope with injuries. Ritchie has come a long way since he joined United; he made a very impressive debut against Hull City in the final game of the 2008-09 season, playing as left back. He showed great attacking intent and bombed forward at every opportunity. De Laet already has two international caps as Belgium faced Chile and Japan in Belgium’s Kirin Cup. He is also a regular in the Belgian U-21’s.
Ritchie’s greatest strength is his versatility. He can play anywhere in the back four, with his best position seemingly right back, but equally as good at left back. As a centre back his inexperience is occasionally highlighted, he can allow an opposition striker to pass him easily or allow a striker to create space and take a shot on – an area he needs to work on. De Laet’s best attributes are his strength, aerial ability and tackling, but he’s also shown he’s deceivingly quick and has good ball control, one of the reasons why he’s been effective as a full back. Ritchie though needs to improve on his positioning and marking, but these will surely improve with experience.
The coming season could see Ritchie loaned out to get some regular first team experience; he seems ready to play in the Premier League but a Championship team seems more likely. If Ritchie is not sent out on loan, then expect to a see a lot more of the Belgian in the coming season.
Ritchie De Laet might not be the next Vidic, Evra or Gary Neville but his ability to cover in any position in defence makes him a great utility player to have in a team, and if he continues to progress at the same rate, we might be seeing the next John O’Shea.