Brandon Williams has made just eight appearances for Manchester United this season, playing a total of 507 minutes of football; 192 in the Premier League, 180 in the UEFA Europa League and 135 in the Carabao Cup. The 19-year-old, despite not having much experience, has taken his chances when he has played and showed something that has been more beneficial than it has not for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team.
Williams came through the club’s academy, making his U18 debut in the 2016/17 season. He has played for the U19s in the UEFA Youth League and for the U23s, unto and including the current 2019/20 season. The 19-year-old has played 63 times at all levels in the academy (10 appearances from the bench), scoring four goals and assisting a further 15, which for a fullback, who can play on either side, is a good record.
This season, with Luke Shaw playing just three times before a long-term injury, having Williams in the squad has been a big positive. Ashley Young has played in the left-back position at times this season and to say there is little positivity from that would be quite true. Other than experience, the veteran winger-cum-fullback does not really offer much, either going forward or in defence.
Luke Shaw signed for United in the summer of 2014, just before Louis van Gaal took over as the manager, after guiding the Netherlands to third place in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Shaw, arriving from Southampton for £27 million, a fee which could have risen to £31 million on total over the years. Injury, lack of fitness and other things have plagued Shaw over the years at the club and he’s still only 24.
Last season, Shaw scored his first goal for United, against Leicester City in the opening Premier League match of the season, a 2-1 victory for United in a match which was his 67 appearance for the club. On Sunday, in the 3-3 draw with Sheffield United at Bramall Lane in the Premier League, Williams opened his account with United, getting them back into the game after being 2-0 in a moment which inspired United to not only equalise but take the lead, despite conceding in the 90th minute.
Williams seems to have a lot more confidence than Shaw, which might stem, with Shaw, from his devastating double leg fracture at the start of the 2015/16 season. However, that is no excuse for not raising his game and becoming a player that should be worthy of a starting position at a club such as United. If Shaw is not careful, despite signing a new contract just over a year ago, which would keep him at United until 2023.
This season, in the Premier League alone, Williams has played four times and Shaw has played three times. In the matches Williams has played, United have conceded four goals, whereas in the matches Shaw played in, United had conceded just two goals. Granted, that does not suggest anything with either player. The fact remains that Williams has seemed to offer more than Shaw and has taken his chances with confidence.
Williams has made six tackles, winning three of them, has made three interceptions, one clearance – a headed clearance, made 12 recoveries of the ball, has won 12 duels, lost nine duels, also winning all three of his aerial duels. The 19-year-old has made three fouls, been booked twice but has also scored one goal, a good finish against the Blades. He’s got more to learn but seems so much safer than Shaw.
On the other hand, Shaw has made three tackles, winning all of them, three interceptions, two clearances – one of them headed, 10 recoveries, winning 12 duels – losing seven, winning six aerial battles – losing four. Shaw had committed one foul and has not been booked in the league. There are some similarities, which is a negative for Shaw, as Williams in nearly five years his junior. For me, Williams should be the one given more opportunities, which might cause Shaw to buck up his ideas.