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Who is Max Aarons? Why Man Utd are impressed by Norwich defender

Why has Ole Gunner Solskjaer's head been turned by the impressive 19-year-old right-back?

Norwich's Max Aarons won the Young Player of the Season award and was also named in the overall EFL Team of the Season
Image: Max Aarons won the Young Player of the Season award and was also named in the overall EFL Team of the Season

Manchester United have turned their attention to Max Aarons - but why has the young Norwich defender caught their eye?

Aarons has just completed his first full season as a senior professional, making his Sky Bet Championship debut for Norwich in September, as the club went on to top the table and return to the Premier League at the end of the campaign.

But what have we learned about the England U19 right-back? And what will he bring to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's defence if they can prise him away from Carrow Road? Read on for the Aarons lowdown...

Who is Max Aarons?

Aarons was born in Hammersmith, London. He is the cousin of Newcastle winger Rolando Aarons and was on the books with Luton until he was snapped up by Norwich three years ago. But it was not until last year that he signed his first professional contract with the Canaries.

Max Aarons has emerged as a target for Manchester United
Image: Aarons has emerged as a target for Manchester United since their interest in Aaron Wan-Bissaka cooled

The right-back made his debut in the Carabao Cup against Stevenage on August 14, and celebrated his league bow against East Anglia rivals Ipswich a month later with the kind of mature performance which would characterise his first season as a pro - and end with a spot in the EFL Team of the Year.

Why do Manchester United want him?

United are short on the right following the departure of club captain Antonio Valencia on a free transfer at the end of the season, and judging by their transfer targets in that position this summer - Aaron Wan-Bissaka and now Aarons - they are unsure about entrusting 20-year-old Diogo Dalot with a regular first-team slot.

Solskjaer's targets so far have reverted to the kind of hungry, up-and-coming young players which Sir Alex Ferguson often favoured to mould into the United philosophy.

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Whether Aarons can step up is the big question - but playing a major part in a Championship-winning side in your first professional season is no mean feat. Norwich's title was won against the odds, but the pressure will never be off at Old Trafford. The proof will be in the pudding whether he can adapt to that relentless strain.

What is his game like?

Aarons is in the mould of most successful modern-day full-backs. He gets up and down the pitch and is as adept with the ball as without it.

Only two defenders attempted more dribbles than the youngster in the whole of the Championship last season, while he weighed in with six assists from right-back.

His work at the back is a little more difficult to quantify from playing out wide - but he quickly took to the division as an all-energy, athletic and defensively stout addition to the Norwich team after his debut.

Norwich players Ben Godfrey, Max Aarons and Teemu Pukki celebrate after going 2-0 up at Elland Road
Image: Aarons netted three times in his debut season

Will Norwich let him go?

Aaron Wan-Bissaka's price tag may have put Manchester United off, but Norwich won't let Aarons go without a fight either. The 19-year-old is one of their brightest prospects in a number of years, even with the equally impressive young Jamal Lewis on the other flank.

Sporting director Stuart Webber told the Pink Un that the lure of a top club may be too much to turn down for Norwich's brightest and best - but that none of the squad had been making noises to leave the club.

"You can never say never," he said. "If one of the huge boys comes in then that conversation might change from their side or whatever.

"Naturally there will come a point when people outgrow you, or you outgrow them. So there might be some of our players moved out in 12 months who have been an unbelievable part of the journey, who we might be selling, because we've gone ahead of them.

"But likewise there might be some players who outgrow us and 'Man United want them, or Liverpool' or whatever and actually we can't compete with that because that's the Champions League and the biggest clubs in the world. But if you take this year, it's almost like, why would you leave?"

What will United expect? Would he be ready to play?

The big question, if United get their man, is how he deals with a second step up in as many seasons, having adapted like a duck to water to the Championship in 2018/19.

Playing as a defender in a Premier League team is a totally different task - especially for a club the size of Manchester United - but Aarons has already proven himself capable of springing a surprise, and was named by the CIES Football Observatory as the seventh-most experienced player born in the year 2000 earlier this year.

 during the Sky Bet Championship match between West Bromwich Albion and Norwich City at The Hawthorns on January 12, 2019 in West Bromwich, England.
Image: Aarons turns 20 on July 1

Solskjaer has had no qualms with playing youth since he took over the reigns at Old Trafford last December, blooding players including Mason Greenwood and Tahith Chong towards the end of last season.

Looking back on the way he dealt with the nerves of his first debut - with another one to come if he joins United - in an interview with Pink Un earlier this year, Aarons said: "I was just a whole bag of nerves really, I was really excited but really nervous at the same time, but I think that helped on the day.

"Those nerves can help if you use them in a positive way - I'll never forget that day, it was a great day."

The pundit view: He's something special

Sky Sports pundit Andy Hinchcliffe said he has kept an eye on Aarons, having played as a full-back during his professional career too, and gave us a comprehensive run-down of what makes him so special earlier this season.

"He is an all-round player who loves getting over the halfway line," he said. "It helps that at Norwich he is encouraged to get forward and play to his strengths.

"To be a full-back you still have to want to get in the way of crosses and get round on the cover. Sometimes you still have to just knock the ball down the channel to get it clear and he does that so well.

"It is like they are playing two positions and that is what top sides do now. It is what is required by Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola at Liverpool and Manchester City, the high-energy, high-press style.

"He shouldn't move unless he will be playing regularly, because he is too good not to be in action every week. Young players normally thrive in a team with experience round them - but he's leading the way."

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