August 18, 2017
Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United squad is one filled with competition for places in every position, and if the remarkable options available weren’t already enough, Luke Shaw and Ashley Young are set to return from long-term injuries next week.
In a press conference on Friday, the United manager revealed that Shaw and Young were set to feature in United’s Premier League 2 fixture against Swansea on Monday.
“Everybody is fine. The next week, on Monday, in the Under-23s game, Luke Shaw and Ashley Young are playing their first minutes of competition this season.
“It is like a pre-season match for them. But it is good news because, when they can play with the Under-23s, it is because the last week they trained with us all week so they are both coming [back].”
The returns of Shaw and Young technically only leave Marcos Rojo on the injury table, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic not contracted to the club but likely to re-sign. While the latter two became massive figures in the squad last season, the former two are important in their own right.
Matteo Darmian and Daley Blind have nailed down the left-back spot at Old Trafford for the beginning of the season, with the latter impressing against West Ham, but the player to tactically advance Manchester United is Luke Shaw. Few left-backs in football have the ability of Shaw when in full flow, and the abilities Shaw has will unlock United fully going forward.
The 22-year-old, who still has plenty of years ahead of him, is excellent defensively and offers the energy required moving forward, and with decent crossing ability, he has an area to improve and become the type of fullback who can hit double figures in assists. Comparable to Gareth Bale as a teenager, Shaw is far better as a left-back than the Welshman ever was at Southampton, and could be one of United’s best if he can maintain fitness.
Shaw nailing down the left-back place would allow Blind to spend more time at centre-back, where he is undoubtedly a better player, while also freeing Matteo Darmian to cover for Antonio Valencia at right-back.
The current cover option for Valencia is Young, who was defensively solid from right-back last season and should continue there. Mourinho frequently depicts the positive influence that the former England international has on United’s squad, even if he isn’t of the calibre of Old Trafford’s world class talents.
Young can deputize at right-back, left-back, and on either wing and is particularly effective as a wingback in a 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 system due to his willingness to work hard and cross the ball. Cutting back onto his right foot and crossing the ball from the left-wing, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the 32-year-old play occasionally as a natural winger for the Red Devils, particularly if another wide player isn’t signed and Romelu Lukaku and Ibrahimovic play the second half of the season in a partnership.
Options never hurt, and Shaw and Young both have parts to play in the squad. The former returns from injury with pressure to perform only for himself, as the team is stable and promises to give him the platform to succeed. Meanwhile, the latter will be able to fill in and offer an extra option should Mourinho want one. The news that they are back from injury is extremely positive.