‘Control’ has become something of a buzzword since Ralf Rangnick was appointed Manchester United manager, yet his team’s displays have shown anything but.
United continue to relinquish control of games despite dominating the early stages and individual errors in defense are threatening to derail their push for a place in the top four.
Harry Maguire has come in for a lot of criticism over the past few weeks, but it’s his international colleague Luke Shaw who’s now been handed the unenviable tag of United boo-boy.
Shaw’s attacking play has been a key weapon in United’s arsenal over recent seasons, making a mockery of Jose Mourinho’s treatment of him during his time as United manager.
However, his showing on Saturday in the 1-1 draw with Southampton was not up to scratch. As per Sofascore, he gave away possession on 12 occasions, only won two out of five ground duels and delivered just three crosses into the box.
Shaw has been through some tough times since moving to Old Trafford in 2014. The double-leg break he suffered in 2015 was the worse of them all, but Mourinho’s criticism of him definitely provided another low point in his career.
The 26-year-old has shown the character to bounce back from multiple setbacks and last season he was arguably United’s most improved player, capping off a fine campaign with a solid showing at Euro 2020 in which he scored England’s only goal in the final against Italy.
It was expected that Shaw would kick on and establish himself as one of the best left-backs in European football, but things haven’t quite gone according to plan.
He’s looked shaky defensively and both of the equalisers United have conceded in the past week – against Burnley and Southampton – could have been avoided if Shaw had been in line with his fellow teammates.
But should we really be blaming him for this?
If you look at the right-hand side of United’s defense, Diogo Dalot knows he can pile forward safe in the knowledge that Raphael Varane will be there to sweep up in the channels if he’s caught out of position.
Shaw isn’t afforded such freedom on the United left as he knows he’ll need to be on hand to cover for any errors made by Maguire.
Maguire has plenty of strengths as a defend but a lack of pace means he’s slow on the turn and cannot offer cover as well as someone like Varane. Shaw is forced to sit deep because of this and so he is more susceptible to playing the opposition onside.
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While Rangnick has steadily improved United’s defence, there are still major issues and the Shaw situation shows that. As long as Maguire is playing without confidence, Shaw’s form will suffer.
Although he hasn’t been at his best this season, no one should forget that Shaw is still a great player and if Rangnick can tighten up the defense then Shaw will soon be back to his attacking best.
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