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Ryan Manning: What Next?

With another season in the Championship having hurtled towards a conclusion, QPR find themselves in the predicament of having several talented young players coming to a crossroads in their QPR careers, whilst the club itself continues to rebuild after several years of mismanagement in the Premier League. In this series, Micah Chudleigh assesses what’s the best move for each of these young players and how the club would be impacted; this week, we look at the future of versatile wing-back Ryan Manning.

Box-to-box central midfield player? Controlling the game from left wing-back? People can debate until the cows come home exactly what position is his best, but there can be no arguments about how good Ryan Manning is when at his very, very best. One of the most versatile players in the squad, Ryan had his best season at the club in 2019/20, shaking off years of uncertainty about his place at the club to become one of the team’s key players.

The Ryan Manning story is perhaps the biggest testament to the job Les Ferdinand has done at the club so far. Manning was the first signing by the then-Head of Football Operations, with the player signing for a nominal fee from Galway United. Whatever you think of the results on the pitch, it’s hard to deny the club as a whole has finally found some form of identity and direction. Wherever Manning goes next, the profit from the deal is sure to fit in with the club’s newfound strategy of self-sustainability.

7 assists from the left back position is nothing to be scoffed at; Manning’s excellent eye for a pass, that initially muscled him into Ian Holloway’s QPR midfield, has led to him being used by Warburton in a Trent Alexander-Arnold type role. At his very best, Manning looks like he can control games from the wide left position, stretching the opposition back line and creating space for Eze to cut inside to. On occasion, Manning has also shown a real ability to create his own shots from distance, adding a new dynamic to the Rangers final third.

At his worst, Manning looks lost defensively and struggles to get involved into games. We’ve seen teams overload their right-side to force Manning to drop back, meaning his influence in attacking phases wanes. These are all fixable issues though, and might seem a harsh criticism for a 24-year old playing his first season in a new position. A 24-year old that has played under three managers, been farmed out on loan to Rotherham and yet has still played every single position or role asked of him with zero complaints. QPR fans would do well to remember that when discussing Manning.

But where does Manning go from here?

It’s worth noting that the club are in negotiations with the player about signing a new deal, with his current one expiring in July 2021. It’s believed that should Manning not get the big move he feels he deserves this summer, the Galway-born man will extend his contract with the R’s. If true, that creates somewhat of a rare win-win situation for the club, in that we either get a transfer fee, or, at least another year with the player, giving him the chance to add some zeroes to any potential sale in the future.

Norwich, West Ham and Southampton are some of the clubs that have been linked in recent times and they all represent interesting options for Manning. West Ham seems to be the biggest departure in terms of playing style, as well as the uncertainty that constantly revolves around the football club. Very few players go to West Ham and make the proverbial ‘next step’ to one of the big six clubs and it would be wise for any player with more than one option to consider the others.

Ryan would be far more suited to the play-styles of Southampton and Norwich; teams that look to make use of possession and be positive in their mindset in each game. With Ryan Bertrand now entering the latter stages of his career, Southampton will surely be looking for some form of competition to keep the 30-year old on his toes. Manning, though, is 24 entering perhaps the most crucial stage of his career where potential becomes ability. He needs to play.

So perhaps Manning’s best choice would be Norwich, all things considered. Norwich seem likely to lose Jamal Lewis this summer, leaving only returning Coventry-loanee Sean McCallam in that position. Norwich will be looking to bounce straight back from a miserable season in the Premier League and Manning is the exact type of attack-minded full-back that fits their gung-ho style.

From a personal level, Manning had a strong debut season as a left-back, but it was by no means perfect. Performances mid-season became inconsistent, and the player seemed bogged down by the sheer amount of football he had to play. It seems to me that being a first choice left-back in the Premier League just seems a step too far at the moment and perhaps being part of a contending Championship team might be the final step in his development.

As a fan, I would love to see Manning stay, further his development at QPR and become a modern-day hero for the club. From a point of view that is objective as I can possibly be, I would completely understand why the player would go. Manning is one of the longest serving players at the club and has seen, more than anybody, the constant chopping and changes behind the scenes and on the pitch in recent years. He’s seen countless players come and go in his five years at the club, and perhaps he feels he’s outgrown such an uncertain environment.

Wherever he ends up, I have no doubt he will have a good career. He’s emerged as a modern wing-back at a time where they’re the hottest property on the market and has shown he has the ability to be a strong one. It’s truly been refreshing to see Rangers develop a previously unknown player and turn him into one of the better options in his position in the league.

Hopefully, Manning’s success story is the first of many for our football club.

Written by Micah Chudleigh

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