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Talking Tactics

Shaw rising to task of flexible Man Utd role

Adrian Clarke 27 Feb 2020
Luke Shaw, Man Utd

Adrian Clarke says the 24-year-old is blossoming into a brilliant left-sided centre-back ahead of facing Everton

Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points ahead of Matchweek 28.

The emergence of talented teenager Brandon Williams has brought the best out of Manchester United team-mate Luke Shaw.

Shaw has been a major influence since the turn of the year, playing a key role in keeping five clean sheets from his last six starts in all competitions.

Used by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as an orthodox left-back or on the left side of central defence, the 24-year-old has been consistency personified.

“Luke was out for two months and he’s done really well in a new position,” the manager told Man Utd's official website.

“It’s mixing between left-back and the left side of centre-back. He runs forward more as a left centre-back than as a full-back. I’ve been very pleased with him there.”

It is a position Shaw is set to be pivotal in once more up against a dangerous Everton attack this weekend.

New dimension

Manager Solskjaer first played Shaw as a left-sided centre-back at Liverpool in January, and he impressed despite a 2-0 defeat.

Shaw has since featured in that unfamiliar role against Manchester City, Chelsea and Club Brugge and has shone on each occasion.

His positioning and decision-making have been intelligent.

Providing a balance to the defensive unit with his left foot, United look more comfortable playing out from the back.

Shaw and Williams are happy to dovetail, often switching positions, much in the same way that Sheffield United operate with their overlapping centre-backs. 

This new tactical set-up has undoubtedly added a new dimension to the team. 

Formation options

The 3-4-1-2 system used by Man Utd in their terrific 2-0 win at Chelsea could be the best formation to start with at Goodison Park on Sunday.

Handling the power and pace of in-form duo Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin will be key and Solskjaer may opt for the security of that extra defender.

United have picked up good results when using three at the back, recording clean-sheet victories at Man City in the EFL Cup and then at Chelsea, plus the 1-1 home draw with Liverpool earlier in the season. 

Solskjaer seems to have developed a formula well-equipped to contain difficult opponents.

Shaw playing to the left of Harry Maguire and of Victor Lindelof or Eric Bailly is a combination with potential.

Back to his best

Shaw’s general form, even as a regular left-back in a 4-2-3-1 is very strong.

Rising to the challenge of keeping his place ahead of 19-year-old Williams, the Englishman has reminded fans of the qualities he displayed as an emerging star at Southampton

He has been extremely composed with his distribution.

Demanding the ball and then making the right choices in possession, Shaw has been a calming influence.

Shaw's stats in last three matches
Contribution v Watford v Chelsea v Wolves
Passes 64 43 64
Pass acc. 92% 93% 88%
Pass acc. opp. half 89% 90% 84%
Interceptions 3 2 3
Clearances 6 5 1
Possession won 8 5 9

As the stats above reflect, in terms of all-round play and reliability, Shaw is producing on a consistent basis.

The United defence will face a stern test up against an Everton front line that boasts speed, skill and physicality.

But in Shaw they have a defender in form and enjoying arguably his best spell in a Man Utd shirt.

Also in this series

Part 1: Van Aanholt key to positive Palace approach
Part 3: Sarr return can reinvigorate Watford attack
Part 4: Boly presence vital to Wolves defence
Part 5: Why Nuno may restore Traore to Wolves attack

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