Luke Shaw has suffered stick from both the media and some fans since joining Manchester United from Southampton in the summer for a fee in the region of £30 million. As an established England international at 19 years of age, Shaw clearly has the potential to be an excellent left-back at Old Trafford for many years to come. But has he been rushed into the position too quickly due to United’s defensive frailties or is Shaw deserving of his place in Van Gaal’s starting lineup due to his footballing qualities?
Any football fan who follows the Premier League could tell you that Luke Shaw was a must-buy. After the departure of Patrice Evra and Fabio, United were left incredibly short at the left-back position. Shaw showed throughout the course of last season that he possesses the raw talent needed to succeed but with all due respect to Southampton, playing for Manchester United is a whole different ballgame. Shaw fits the requirements for a United full back as he is direct with the ball and strong in attack as well as holding the essential criteria defensively too.
Unfortunately for Shaw, he picked up an injury on United’s preseason tour of the United States which meant that he missed the start of the season. This is hardly ideal preparation for any player at the beginning of a new campaign, let alone at the start of the season with a new club. Shaw made his debut against West Ham at Old Trafford before the international break. Interestingly, Shaw was called up for the England under-21 squad during the break and played the entirety of both matches, a necessity for gaining match fitness on his progression back from injury.
Luke Shaw performed admirably for the England youth side as he helped them defeat Croatia over two legs and reach the youth equivalent of the European Championship finals next summer. Shaw has been tipped to play in the tournament and such experience at a major finals could prove instrumental in his progression for both England and United. The possibility of Shaw playing youth football is exciting though he must be careful to avoid injury or ‘burning out’.
Because of the high fee agreed for Shaw, many have expected a lot more of the United full back. Shaw has received criticism for his early appearances in a United shirt, for example after he was caught out of position in the build up to West Bromwich Albion’s opening goal on Monday evening although performed solidly for the majority of the game. This criticism is harsh on a young player returning from injury who completed 180 minutes for his country only one week before playing against the Baggies. The high price tag will stick with Shaw until he regularly provides and contributes to the United cause but to suggest that Shaw is overrated and overpriced at 19 years old after just two appearances in a United shirt is nothing short of insane.
United fans should keep the faith in Luke Shaw and allow a season or two to adapt to his new surroundings. Many forget that Patrice Evra struggled in his opening period at United before establishing himself as one of the greatest left-backs in the Premier League era. Shaw has shown enough promise and class to suggest that Manchester United were right in their pursuit of the England left-back. Although a little pricey, Shaw is likely to spend around a decade at Old Trafford as a first choice full back. £3 million a year is perfectly reasonable for a man of his ability and fans should look forward to him establishing a menacing partnership with Di Maria on the left hand side for the foreseeable future.