Bought when he was one of the most promising young stars by then manager Louis van Gaal, Luke Shaw was always destined for the very top.
A double leg break and some initial hiccups later, it finally seemed like the England man’s time had come. But a rocky relationship with Jose Mourinho ensued and at that time, a departure seemed highly likely.
It seemed like the young defender would leave Old Trafford without having come close to fulfilling his enormous potential.
But a resounding comeback and some decent displays under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer later, the main problem holding back the 27-year-old emerged — Shaw himself.
It had become a recurrent pattern and it always seemed like the full-back had become too comfortable in its position and needed to be pushed sufficiently.
Shaw’s turnaround under ETH
It that respect, it was encouraging to note that the England international had openly told Erik ten Hag that he was open to playing as centre-back and willing to push his boundaries.
“We have picked Casemiro as he has played more often there, also Luke (Shaw) reported himself that he could play at centre-half, which is really good.
“They are all committed and they want to play, they are hungry and I like that.” It was praiseworthy considering it it coincided with his return from the World Cup.
With World Cup winner Lisandro Martinez absent and Victor Lindelof, Scott McTominay and and Harry Maguire unavailable, Shaw got his wish against Nottingham Forest along side Raphael Varane.
Luke Shaw’s game by numbers vs. Nottingham Forest:
118 Touches 🥇
100 passes completed 🥇
90% pass accuracy
11 ball recoveries 🥇
5 long balls completed
3/3 aerial duels won
3 interceptions 🥇
Like he’s played there all his life. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/yamSFfTgLQ
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) December 27, 2022
The manager had the chance to play Casemiro there once again but chose to trust the England star.
And he did not disappoint. He has not played there as part of a back-four but did excel as the left central defender during Solskjaer’s experiments playing a back-five.
On Tuesday, the 27-year-old exhibited all the aptitude of a player who has been a regular in that position and his slick passing was a particular highlight.
He had 118 touches of the ball while completing a mammoth 100 passes, the most among his teammates. His long range passing ability was on full display as he completed 5 long balls.
That was not the most impressive aspect however, as he also finished the game with a 90% passing accuracy, instigating quite a few attacking forays with his incisive passing.
He was as sharp defensively, making a total of 11 ball recoveries, once again leading in that metric among his peers.
Defensively solid, he won all three of his attempted aerial duels while also making three interceptions and two clearances.
Shaw’s superlative effort vs. Forest
Ten Hag was all praise for his newest central defensive find. “It looked like Luke has played there all his life at centre-half.
“He did a fantastic job, so it is good to know that we have options there, and that is also what you need for the whole squad – have players who can play in more positions.
“He was really composed, really decisive there and determined to play that position. It was a really good performance.”
With his contract extended by a year and his obvious technical abilities on display, United and Ten Hag might just decide to hand him a new contract on improved terms.
The Dutch boss loves his recruits to show positional flexibility and Shaw has shown that in abundance. Hopefully, he can continue in the same vein in the second half of the season.
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