Luke Shaw is currently enjoying the best period of his Manchester United career.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sought to give him a rest against Sheffield United last Wednesday but his attacking thrust was sorely missed.
Alex Telles was brought in during the summer to add that drive from left back but his flat display was in stark contrast to Shaw’s recent performances.
Shaw missed the game against his former employers in November through injury but he is expected to start tonight and could be United’s most important player.
Southampton like to play a narrow 4-4-2. This allows them to press effectively in midfield but allows space on the flanks for full backs to scamper forward.
Their right flank might provide fertile ground for United’s left-sided players tonight given Kyle Walker-Peters’ injury problem.
The Saints just loaned potential backup Jan Valery to Birmingham and James Ward-Prowse had to fill in against Aston Villa on Saturday.
United’s left winger is likely to be Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial or Marcus Rashford, all right-footers who will drag the Saints right back inside.
That creates space for Shaw to bomb into and whip in crosses, especially if United can create 2v1 situations on the left.
Shaw has drawn praise in recent weeks for his defensive work, most notably the way he shackled Mo Salah in the 0-0 draw at Anfield.
While that defensive alertness will be needed tonight, it’s time for his attacking power to take centre stage.
That drive was so impressive when he played for Southampton in the early part of his career and he is finally, consistently making good on that potential.
Shaw can help United get back to winning ways tonight.
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