Brandon Williams’ impressive return to the starting line-up against Burnley has given Ole Gunnar Solskjaer a selection headache ahead of the trip to Arsenal.
The 19-year-old had a solid evening’s work at Turf Moor in his first Premier League appearance since the 2-2 draw against Aston Villa earlier in the month.
Williams hadn’t featured in the last 5 Premier League matches and has had to patiently bide his time for another chance to stake his claim to become the club’s first choice left-back.
Luke Shaw had started the previous 4 league matches, but with games coming thick and fast for the Red Devils, Solskjaer shuffled his pack and opted to rotate both his full-backs.
United’s next three games in all competitions come against the Gunners, Wolves in the FA Cup and Manchester City in the first leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final.
It is going to be difficult for Solskjaer to rest any of his big names during this tricky run of games.
However, the left-back position is arguably one of the few remaining spots in the United team that hasn’t been nailed down by one particular player.
Solskjaer has to be bold
It has been a meteoric rise to stardom for Williams and yes there will be errors along the way, but he offers more to this Manchester United side than Shaw.
Every time United were in possession against Sean Dyche’s side, Williams was busting a gut in a bid to contribute to our attacking play.
Williams’ surges down our left-hand side resulted in 2 chances being created and Phil Bardsley getting yellow carded after he cynically chopped down the United youngster.
Compared to Shaw, there is a greater desire and intent from Williams to gallop forward and be a constant attacking outlet, it is an area of Williams’ game that he relishes.
Especially in games where United are dominating the ball, we need our full-backs to pin the opposition back with a barrage of inviting crosses and cutbacks.
Williams’ attacking ability is similar to Shaw’s when he first burst onto the scene at Southampton, but the former Saints man’s career has stagnated due to fitness issues, injuries and a lack of form.
Unlike Shaw, Williams doesn’t need to be told by the coaching staff to get further forward.
Having Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who is more comfortable defending playing on the opposite side to Williams, would allow the academy prospect to join in with our attacking transition knowing that his partnering full-back would be back to cover.
In the closing stages of the victory at Turf Moor, Williams was still galloping forward looking to score goals. That is the United identity.
It was a faultless defensive performance too from Williams on East Lancashire, his positioning, work rate and confidence to negotiate tight areas were a real highlight.
Manchester United look a better and a much more menacing outfit with Williams in the side over Shaw.
Williams links up well with United’s talisman Marcus Rashford and if Mikel Arteta opts to deploy Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Reiss Nelson down the Gunner’s right-hand side, Solskjaer should back his talented youngsters to win the battle of the Brits.
If Solskjaer opts to stick with the academy graduate over Shaw, who was signed for £27m four years ago for the trip to the Emirates it could represent yet another change of who is in control of the left-back starting spot.
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