Manchester United left-back, Luke Shaw is facing a month on the sidelines following a hamstring injury sustained in the first half of the 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on Saturday. This has not yet been confirmed by the club, however, it seems likely that the 24-year-old will spend a period of time out of action.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is a bit light in the fullback department this season with Diogo Dalot also on the sidelines with a minor injury, meaning Ashley Young, who replaced Shaw on Saturday, one of two options at left-back with Matteo Darmian the other. There is, however, a further option with Brandon Williams doing well for the U23s in this position.
Williams, 18, has played in all four of the U23s matches this season, beating Rotherham United 2-0 in the EFL Trophy, West Bromwich Albion 5-0, Reading 2-0, and Newcastle United 4-0, all in the Premier League 2, Division 2. The academy graduate has four assists to his name; one against Rotherham and Newcastle and two against West Brom.
The 18-year-old has played 360 minutes of football for the U23s this season, every available minute he could play in their four
If Solskjaer decides to call the teenager up for the first team, which he has done once before ahead of the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg clash with Paris Saint-Germain back in March, a match which United won 3-1, knocking the French team out of the competition. However, Williams did not make the match day squad.
Solskjaer may need to find a solution based on the fact that Young was poor when he played last season and that is only expected to continue as he best days seem to be behind him. He could be an option for one match but a better one will be needed. There is a chance that Williams could add competition for Shaw, bring the best out of both players.
It will be a gamble but in football, there needs to be a gamble. Sir Alex Ferguson, who Solskjaer will hope to emulate, which may or may not happen, took risks, especially by introducing the likes of Gary Neville, David Beckham, Nicky Butt, and Paul Scholes to his squad, which already had Ryan Giggs in it. The class of 1992 had arrived.
I am not saying that the youth players that United currently has are as good as the class of 92 but if you do not try them, you do not know. One thing against bringing Williams into the first team is the fact that Angel Gomes is not really making waves in that area when he should be. On Saturday, Gomes should have started but was omitted from the squad.
This could suggest that Solskjaer is not ready to bring in the talented youth at his disposal. Gomes is able to use his small frame to do things other players cannot and Lingard lack creative ability, which can be seen by the lack of goals and assists in his career. If the gamble is not taken by Solskjaer, it is likely that Young could find himself out of his depth.
Williams is comfortable playing at either right-back or left-back but predominately plays the latter position. He has made the position his own this season in which U23 boss Neil Wood and assistant, Quinton Fortune will be tasked to find promotion from division 2 of the Premier League 2, reaching top-flight status after two seasons out.
The fact he has four assists in four matches is telling about his attacking ability but also the fact that the U23s are yet to concede their first goal of the season also shows his defensive ability, along with that of his teammates. I am not saying he’s the reason for the goals or the lack of conceding them. It is a team game after all.
Williams captain United at U18 level last season and his performances would have been one of the reasons that Solskjaer selected him to step up to the first team, for experience sake, ahead of the PSG match in Paris. Last season, at U18 level, Williams scored four goals and two assists in 22 appearances, adding two more assists at U19 level.
Shaw had his best season at United last season, after suffering some major injuries and fitness issues since he signed for the club in the summer of 2014 from Southampton. However, in terms of breaking forward, there has always been questions about Shaw and how well he fits in as the left-back at the club.
I suspected that Diogo Dalot could wrestle the left-back position from him, however, with the Portuguese teenager also on the sidelines, that cannot happen for the foreseeable future. If Williams is given the opportunity, it might be hard for both Shaw and Dalot, if the left-back position is one for him, to break back into the team.
This summer, Nicky Butt left his role as the academy manager, becoming the first-team head of development, enabling players to make the transition from U18 and U23 level football to the first-team. Butt could well see now as the time for Williams to make the step up to the first-team, which could also be the best chance for him.