Transfer Grade: Alex Telles to Manchester United

Written By Uttiyo Sarkar on October 5, 2020

WHO: Alex Telles
FC Porto
Manchester United
€17m ($20m)

After their 6-1 thrashing to Tottenham Hotspur, it was painfully obvious that Manchester United need new legs in their defence. So they’ve gone out & signed one defender – but not exactly the one fans would’ve been hoping for. Regardless, Alex Telles is a much-needed reinforcement to reignite the withering left-back spot which has been dominated by Luke Shaw.

An experienced candidate, the Brazilian is much better attacking–wise than United’s current lot of full-backs and is actually well capable of creating chances. In Telles, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gets a fiery attacking full-back he can rely upon to deliver the goods & add some spice to his backline.


A Brazilian International, Telles has had to work really hard to earn his move to Old Trafford. A graduate of Brazilian side Juventude FC’s academy, his bright performances for Brazilian giants Gremio earned him a move to Galatasaray. From there his first ‘big move’ was when Telles got loaned to Inter for one season, which didn’t work out well. But at FC Porto, he found his footing in European soccer & made 192 appearances for them, scoring 20+ & assisting 50 +goals during his period in Portugal!


Considering that United are getting a left-back with Champions League experience and someone who can actually attack well, buying Telles for around £15m (including add-ons) is pretty good. They’ve obviously received a Covid-discount for him, but paying that kind of money for a player who will probably be rotated or an alternative to Shaw is justified.


Like Donny van de Beek, Alex Telles probably won’t be inserted into the first-team immediately. However, he will provide heavy competition to Shaw – who seems to have slacked off due to no real threat to his place in the squad. With the Brazilian’s arrival, Ole will hope that Shaw hits his best stride quickly.

Telles himself adds a unique threat down the left-wing for United. The Red Devils have struggled recently to break down teams who basically park the bus & hit them on the counter-attack. When that happens, you usually need potent wing-backs to break the shape of the opposition backline & make those inward runs that aren’t tracked as closely.

Shaw has been unable to do this for years but Telles has been doing it for a long time for Porto. As a Brazilian, it’s in his blood to produce an exciting attacking style that should delight fans. Telles is quick in moving down the left flank & can easily go past defenders as well as the carry the ball forward to rally his side forward.

The 27-year-old can make penetrative runs behind defenders into the final third but more importantly, his crosses actually find the mark – which Shaw’s don’t seem to half the time. For example, Telles managed 8 assists in Liga NOS last season for Porto – the same managed by Shaw over his last 4 seasons in the Premier League! The Brazilian wing-back’s crosses are much more precise & his impressive set-piece ability will finally give United a solid left-footed freekicks/corners specialist.

When it comes to scoring goals, it’d be silly to even compare. Last season, Telles scored 11 goals in the league. Shaw has only managed 1 goal in his entire PL career. The 27-year-old can easily be the feisty wing-back the Red Devils crave for to turn up & score surprising goals.

Of course, he’ll first have to create impressive chemistry with those around. He must form a strong bond with Marcus Rashford in particular, working on his link-up play and freeing-up the wing-forward to stray into more central areas. Telles also needs to create slick chemistry with Anthony Martial, who loves venturing to the left, as well create an understanding with the creative hubs in Bruno Fernandes & Paul Pogba to receive splitting passes.

But the aspect of Telles that’ll come under utmost scrutiny is his defending. Defensively, he’s too aggressive on occasion. While this United defence do need more aggression & be less cautious, Telles tends to pick up bookings & make occasional clumsy challenges – which cause problems.

Telles averaged 1.8 interceptions, 1.1 tackles & 1.2 clearances per 90 (stats via WhoScored) as compared to Shaw’s 1 interception, 1.4 tackles & 2.1 clearances per game. Of course, the Englishman trumps him in terms of being a more proactive defender, which means the Brazilian needs to stand out defensively to truly make that left-back spot his own.


Man United (B)

This is the kind of deal which won’t make United regret losing money. They’ve paid quite a low fee for a player who won’t have a baggage of expectations on him & is clearly good enough to put pressure on Shaw to perform better. As long as Telles can notch up some crucial goals+assists & doesn’t make constant errors defensively, he could even usurp Shaw’s position and prove to be a really smart buy in the long-term.

FC Porto (C)

Porto will feel robbed by getting so little for a player who is clearly worth a lot more. They’ve lost a crucial member of their team who excited the fans and delivered for them on a consistent basis. But considering he could’ve gone for free next year, maybe they’ll be glad to at least get something for Telles.

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Uttiyo Sarkar

An unbiased Manchester United die-hard. Lover of the beautiful game. Addicted to the Premier League and beyond. Hopeful writer in the search for the greater good.

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