Jose Mourinho once hailed former Manchester United goalkeeper Joel Pereira, now playing in the Netherlands with RKC Waalwijk, as "the best Portuguese goalkeeper of the next generation." He doesn't always get it right, but the manager can afford himself a smile at what Diogo Dalot is doing at Old Trafford this season.
Mourinho was in charge when Man United paid FC Porto £19 million to sign Dalot in 2018 and, on the day he arrived, labelled the 19-year-old as "the best full-back in Europe in his age group." It seemed a remarkable tag for a player who had only made seven senior appearances for Porto. There have been times over the last four years when Mourinho's assessment has seemed way off the mark.
But nearly three months into this season, Dalot is one of only two players -- along with goalkeeper David de Gea -- to have started every one of Erik ten Hag's 15 games in charge. In the Premier League this season, no United player has had more touches of the ball than Dalot (769), while only Lisandro Martinez (500) and Bruno Fernandes (412) have made more completed passes than his 401.
Ask United fans which players have helped Ten Hag turn things around and they are likely to talk about Martinez, Raphael Varane or Christian Eriksen. Dalot, though, should be up there too.
It wasn't so long ago that he was loaned to Milan with then-manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer -- who oversaw the £50m signing of right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka from Crystal Palace just a year after Dalot arrived -- suggesting he needed more game time than he could offer at Old Trafford.
Dalot was so keen to make the most of his time in Italy that he occasionally slept at the training ground to ensure he had access to recovery equipment. Injuries have been an issue in the past -- he was limited to just 11 appearances during this second season in England -- although most of the problems were put down to growing pains. But he has worked hard to stay as fit as possible and hasn't had a significant injury for more than two years.