Luke Shaw took a while to get back to his best at Manchester United. But the full-back followed up an impressive individual campaign last time out with stellar performances against Chelsea and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Shaw looked on course to make it a hat-trick of fine outings before succumbing to injury against Crystal Palace. And his second-half absence played a major role in United’s shock defeat.
Ashley Young may be one of United’s most experienced players. But he is also one of the weakest links. So it was no surprise when the hosts faltered once Shaw was side-lined.
Prior to his exit, the 23-year-old had a pass completion rate of 93% and bombed forward at every opportunity. His heat map saw him in or around Palace’s area time and again.
What Shaw does so well is create space for others, running into the box and allowing the likes of Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford the chances they should be converting. A fast full-back occupies a defender in a way that Young simply cannot anymore.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s tactics rely on pace and pressing, not the lackadaisical style of a 34-year-old who takes so long to provide a cross that almost invariably misses its target.
Young did play more key passes than Shaw on the day. But there is far more to it than that. The younger player adds balance and unpredictability. He also ensures less chance of losing a goal on the counter-attack.
Unfortunately for United and Shaw, the £27million man (BBC) looks like facing a few weeks out of the side just when they need him the most.
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