Manchester United won 4-0 at the weekend. Not that you would have known going by some of the criticism of Luke Shaw.
Some of the comments criticising Shaw were way over the top, from personal attacks on the defender’s weight to lambasting his ability. And these were just from Manchester United fans.
Shaw deserves to be scrutinised as much as any other player, but it must be fair.
There is real pressure on Shaw this season from a combination of factors.
No longer is he the shiny new toy in United’s defence. The new arrivals of Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire make him the longest serving player in the back four.
While both Wan-Bissaka and Maguire lapped up the plaudits, Shaw’s performance was admittedly more pedestrian at the weekend.
Wan-Bissaka is a right-back who is simply outstanding. His ability to shut attacks down may see more focus from opposing teams on testing Shaw.
This increases the difficulty for Shaw, and comments from Jose Mourinho criticising him on Sky last week don’t help.
Shaw came in for some mocking on social media before the season when Romelu Lukaku posted players’ speed tests online, with Shaw the lowest.
This hasn’t helped the perception of a player that was undoubtedly lucky to win the club’s player of the year award last year after he ended the season very poorly.
After his outstanding display away to PSG, like the rest of the team, his form dropped off.
This coming week he heads back to Wolves, scene of one of his worst displays last season.
We said all summer that United should have been looking at an alternative back-up for Shaw to keep the pressure on him.
Perhaps United already have one, with either Diogo Dalot or Ethan Laird potential challengers.
Shaw’s low number of career assists, just eight, was exceeded by Liverpool left-back Andy Robertson in one season last year.
This is a side of his game which Shaw clearly needs to improve.
Yet for now, Shaw is the best left-back United have. We saw even bigger issues last season when he was out suspended or injured.
To thrive, Shaw needs positivity and support. That doesn’t mean blindly ignoring his errors, but it means being rational and not make knee-jerk reactions. Especially after a game United win.
Against Chelsea he was decent. It was a 6/10 performance, nothing special, with moments where he was caught out of position. But Shaw was far from hopeless, like some criticism made him out to be.
He made one tackle, two interceptions, one clearance and blocked one shot.
For all the aforementioned reasons above, Shaw could be United’s most under pressure player this season. Even more so than Paul Pogba.
Nobody is questioning Pogba’s talent. With Shaw it is a different matter.
Playing a key role in United’s new look defence could be the making of him.
If he is exposed as a weak link over the course of the season, then this should be a priority to address next summer.
But after one game, give the guy a break.
- Marcus Rashford is rapidly becoming one of the league’s best marksman
- How Manchester United fans reacted to seeing Luke Shaw play left wing
- Will Paul Pogba return for United against City, and is he needed?
- Tahith Chong bounces back with two goals for United in EFL Trophy defeat
- Martial injury gives United striker transfer clarity