Luke Shaw: Still on the plane back from the Euros?

The 2020/21 season was a career defining campaign for Luke Shaw, for both club and country. After years of inconsistent form, being left out of international squads and struggling to fulfil the potential he possesses, Shaw found his feet. However, since the start of the 2021/22 campaign, the left back has looked a shadow of the player fans had gotten used to watching last season, where has it all gone wrong? 

Last season, Shaw played 47 games for Manchester United in all competitions, this was the most appearances Shaw had managed to make in one campaign for United, which shows how inconsistent he was in the seasons previous and how injuries and lack of belief had impacted his time at the club, before that season. 

In those 47 appearances, Shaw scored one goal and got six assists from left-back, again, this was his best attacking return ever in a Manchester United shirt, the second best being the 2018/19 season where he managed one goal and five assists, interestingly, the majority of Shaws attacking returns in the 2018/19 season came after the appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as manager, and the sacking of Jose Mourinho.

His performances in the 2020/21 season also made him an England regular once more, something he had not achieved for many years, he was recalled to the squad for their international games in March of 2021 and has been a nailed-on pick ever since. 

The Guardian reported ‘Luke Shaws England recall rewards a player in the form of his life’, the report also notes that prior to this recall, the left back had only played twice for Southgate’s England, something that was about to change. 

Shaw was included in the Euro 2020 England squad, and it is not hyperbolic to say that in this tournament we saw the very best of the left back. Shaw played every game, except for the opener against Croatia, and put in consistently brilliant performances, ending the tournament with one goal and three assists within six games.

The Independent reported that in England’s 4-0 quarter final victory against Ukraine ‘Shaw showed English football he is the elite left-back some predicted but many more doubted’, after he left the pitch after 65 minutes with two assists to his name. 

Shaws tremendous tournament culminated with him scoring the opening goal in the tournament’s final against Italy, smashing home a left footed shot with only two minutes on the clock, for a brief moment in history, Luke Shaw was the nations hero. Of course, as we all know, it was not to be and England lost on penalties, but the disappointment of the final did not wipe out the fact that as a country we had witnessed Shaw at his very best, all he needed to do now was keep up that form. 

However, it feels to many United fans that Shaw left his form on the plane on the way back from the Euros. So far the left back has made 14 appearances in al competitions for United, with two assists to his name. However, it is not the defenders attacking numbers that are cause for concern, Shaw is part of a defence that has kept no clean sheets at home in the league this season, with the left back being at fault positionally for many goals conceded this season. 

Notably, in the 2-0 loss to Manchester City, Luke Shaw appeared to ball watch, not realising Bernardo Silva was creeping in behind him, tapping the ball home for 2-0, had Shaw been more positionally aware, the goal would not have been conceded and United would have gone in at half time 1-0 down and still in the game. 

For United fans, the form of Shaw is impossible to understand, nothing has changed around the player, he is still managed, at time of writing, by a manager who seemingly believed in him and gave him the minutes to realise his best form as a player, so what is the issue? 

Put simply, it would seem as though Shaw is still suffering from the highs of the summer, he was quite literally at the top of his game and was on the brink of being part of history for his national team, missing out so agonisingly was always going to take its toll on the players. Other England players who played key roles in the tournament have also returned notably low on confidence and form, such as Harry Kane, John Stones and United captain Harry Maguire. 

For Shaw, he needs to find his form and find it fast, of course not all United’s defensive issues can be blamed on him, but unlike Aaron Wan-Bissaka at right back, Shaw has a hungry Alex Telles ready to take his spot whenever the time comes. 

Shaw now has the international break to hopefully clear his head of the lapse in judgement in the derby, get some minutes under his belt for England, and return in the right headspace ready to prove once again that he is an elite level left back, and he can be part of a competent defence that United so desperately need. 

Written by Jennifer McCord

The Evolution of the Manchester United defence under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Sir Alex Ferguson once said; “attack wins you games, defence wins you titles.” Especially under Ferguson, United were always defined by a solid centre half partnership that became United’s rock for years. Since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has come in, he’s struggled to find the perfect partnership at the back, but with the improvement of Harry Maguire and the signing of Raphael Varane, can this be the pairing to restore this rock and potentially bring the titles back to Old Trafford?

In Solskjaer’s first season at the club he mainly used Phil Jones, Victor Lindelof, Chris Smalling and occasionally Eric Bailly. He started off using Jones and Lindelof but switched to Smalling at times. He clearly didn’t have a preferred pairing but he was consistent in his use of Lindelof; Lindelof became a key member of Solskjaer’s team as until the signing of Raphael Varane, Lindelof was always first choice in the defence.

To resolve this issue, Solskjaer looked to bring in a dominant and controlling centre half in the summer. This was secured through the world record fee for a defender of £80 million for Harry Maguire. To this day, Maguire is overlooked due to his price tag, but recent performances have boosted his reputation. Maguire and Lindelof became Solskjaer’s trusted pairing and played together for around two years. In these two years, United have become far better defensively.

As of the 7 March, Maguire had kept 24 clean sheets since the start of the previous season which was the highest out of any outfield player. Therefore, this shows with Maguire in the team United are greatly improved as his key characteristics like heading, positioning and leadership assure the players around him and keep the defence stable. However, despite these clean sheets, issues remained and United were making mistakes defensively.

To combat this, Solskjaer has seen Lindelof as the weak link and in recent days pushed for the purchase of Raphael Varane, four-time Champions League winner and one time World Cup winner with France. Solskjaer will hope this is the final player needed in a heavily invested defence and will look to create a partnership for years to come with Maguire and Varane as the duo.

The Partnerships:

Victor Lindelof and Phil Jones

Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire

Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane

Firstly, the partnership of Lindelof and Jones. Lindelof and Jones was a pairing that both understood the game well and could hold their own but under consistent pressure would fold. The major issue was height, it lacked ariel dominance especially in such a physical league as the Premier League.

Therefore, rough teams like Burnley might look to take advantage of their weak ariel ability, which has continued through to the Maguire and Lindelof partnership as Lindelof still gets bullied in the air seen, in particular, against West Bromwich Albion when Mbaye Diagne manhandled Lindelöf to score in the second minute of the game.

As a pairing it wasn’t of the United level especially with the duo’s that had come by in the past like Steve Bruce x Gary Pallister, Jaap Stam x Ronny Johnsen and Rio Ferdinand x Nemanja Vidic. Maguire’s signing the summer after illustrates the issues with the Jones and Lindelöf partnership as he is a known tall, strong, and aerially brilliant defender purchased to give United more height.

Lindelof and Maguire as a partnership were more successful. They created a solid connection, enabling them to be Solskjaer’s trusted pairing for just under two years and win many big games together. The lack of height in the previous duo was mostly rectified, as Maguire brought this, but Lindelof was still a liability in this air, but it wasn’t as obvious as Maguire could cover for him.

However, the main weakness with this duo was pace. Both Lindelof and Maguire lacked pace and thus were susceptible to being done by quick agile players or balls in behind. This lack of pace also prohibited the United backline from pushing higher up the pitch in fear of faster forwards exploiting the slower defenders and running the channels.

This ultimately has had a detrimental effect on United’s style of play as due to the weakness of this partnership, Solskjaer has looked to use Scott McTominay and Fred to cover them which slows down United’s ball progression and transition and limits their attacking force. Overall, it’s been a decent partnership but one that always had blatant issues and subsequently Solskjaer looked to sign Varane to solve this.

In recent days, United have managed to agree a deal with Real Madrid for Raphael Varane subject to a medical. Solskjaer will be hoping his signing solves the issues of previous seasons like pace and height. Varane is a quick centre half who is 6 foot 3 inches tall and quite good in the air. Therefore, next to Maguire he should provide that necessary recovery pace needed to play next to him.

Furthermore, unlike Lindelof, Varane is good in the air which means that he should adapt to the physicality and demand of the Premier League and may be able to deal with the tricky strikers like Chris Wood, Michail Antonio and Ashley Barnes better than Lindelof. In addition, due to Varane’s pace it will enable United to play a higher line as he has the recovery speed if a ball is played in behind. Therefore, this means United can push higher up the pitch, pressing more and also being less likely to be forced back into their own half.

Then finally, with Varane’s qualities, he will reassure Solskjaer which will enable him to play with a lone defensive midfielder rather than two defensive midfielders in a pivot as seen with McTominay and Fred. Thus helping United play, a more attacking style of football which will please the players and most importantly the fans as it fulfils the DNA of Manchester United football club.

Overall, I feel Solskjaer has gradually done well adapting and changing his defence in his United tenure, and with a back four of Luke Shaw, Maguire, Varane and Aaron Wan-Bissaka, I feel United could be far more secure and balanced defensively which will strengthen the team as a whole and may lead them on to have a successful season and potentially win silverware.

Written by Ethan Bents

February Review: Luke Shaw, Bruno Fernandes and Daniel James in the plaudits for their performances in February – Who do you choose?

Manchester United played eight matches in February which completed three busy months with saw Ole Gunnar Solskjaer side play 26 matches in the three-month period. March will be an easier month with the first international break of 2021 coming at the end of the month with many of the cup competitions advancing in the latter knockout stages with the best club advancing. United won four times in February; Southampton 9-0, West Ham United 1-0, Real Sociedad 4-0 and Newcastle United 3-1. Solskjaer side drew four times also; Everton 3-3, West Bromwich Albion 1-1, Real Sociedad 0-0 and Chelsea 0-0. It was an unbeaten month for United but also a month which saw Manchester City rise to the summit of the Premier League.

February Statistics:

Eight matches played; four wins and four draws. Nine Premier League points won, a place in the quarter-final of the Emirates FA Cup and the round of 16 in the UEFA Europa League. 21 goals scored, five goals conceded and five clean sheets. Out of the 21 goals scored by United in February, Bruno Fernandes scored six, also getting three assists, Marcus Rashford got three goals and two assists, Daniel James got three goals and one assist, Scott McTominay scored three goals, Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani got two goals each and Aaron Wan-Bissaka scored one goal and one assist and there was one own goal. Luke Shaw got four assists with Mason Greenwood, Fred, Eric Bailly and Harry Maguire all getting one assist each.

2 February – Manchester United 9-0 Southampton – Premier League

Goals: Aaron Wan-Bissaka 18′, Marcus Rashford 25′, Jan Bednarek 34′ o/g, Edinson Cavani 39′, Anthony Martial 69’, 90′, Scott McTominay 71’, Bruno Fernandes 87′ penalty, Daniel James 90+3′

Assists: Luke Shaw 18′, 39′, Mason Greenwood 25′, Bruno Fernandes 69′, 90+3′

Manchester United destroyed Southampton 9-0 in the Premier League at Old Trafford. Alexandre Jankewitz was sent off for the challenge on Scott McTominay in the second minute of the match, putting the Saints down to the men. United opened the scoring through Aaron Wan-Bissaka in the 18th minute, doubling their lead through Marcus Rashford in the 25th. Jan Bednarek scored an own goal in the 34th before Edinson Cavani scored a fourth in the 39th. In the second half, United scored a fifth through Anthony Martial in the 69th before McTominay scored in the 71st. Bruno Fernandes scored a penalty in the 87th with Martial completing his brace in the 90th before Daniel James struck in added time.

6 February – Manchester United 3-3 Everton – Premier League

Goals: Edinson Cavani 24′, Bruno Fernandes 45′, Scott McTominay 70′; Abdoulaye Doucoure 49’, James Rodriguez 52’, Dominic Calvert-Lewin 90+5

Assists: Marcus Rashford 24′, Aaron Wan-Bissaka 45’, Luke Shaw 70′; Abdoulaye Doucoure 52’, Michael Keane 90+5

Manchester United drew 3-3 with Everton at Old Trafford in the Premier League. It was a game of two halves for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side. Edinson Cavani put United ahead in the 24th minute of the match with Bruno Fernandes doubling the lead with a sublime goal in the 45th minute. Everton got back into the game four minutes into the second half with Abdoulaye Doucoure getting a goal but three minutes later James Rodriguez had levelled United’s early lead. Scott McTominay scored what seemed to be a winner for United in the 70th minute of the match but in the last minute of added time, Dominic Calvert-Lewin levelled the score for Everton with David De Gea making two costly errors; Doucoure’s goal and Calvert-Lewin’s goal.

9 February – Manchester United 1-0 West Ham United – Emirates FA Cup

Goals: Scott McTominay 97′

Assists: Marcus Rashford 97′

Manchester United beat West Ham United 1-0 in the Emirates FA Cup on Tuesday evening. It took extra time for United to find the after the Hammers seemingly played for a point in a game that would never see it happen. To play this defensive in a cup match was poor. Victor Lindelof had the best chance of normal time seeing Lukasz Fabianski save his effort in the first half. Mason Greenwood played well and Marcus Rashford missed an easy effort once again, seemingly needing to make things simple again. Scott McTominay opened the scoring seven minutes into the first half of extra time. United will find out who they face in the quarter-final draw which will take place on Thursday evening.

14 February – West Bromwich Albion 1-1 Manchester United – Premier League

Goals: Mbaye Diagne 2′; Bruno Fernandes 44′

Assists: Conor Gallagher 2′; Luke Shaw 44′

Manchester United drew 1-1 with West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns in the Premier League. It was a poor start by United as Victor Lindelof seemed t be fouled by Mbaye Diagne, who then beat David De Gea in just over 80 seconds of the match being played. United seemed to lack urgency for a period and failed to break into the match. In the 44th minute though, Bruno Fernandes found the equaliser to get United back into the game but despite Manny attempts to, did not find a winning goal. The Baggies almost scored two more times with Diagne on the break and De Gea managing to get most of his effort on the ball to change its direction. It will be seen as a poor result for United, but a worse one for the Baggies who are 12 points adrift of safety.

18 February – Real Sociedad 0-4 Manchester United – UEFA Europa League

Goals: Bruno Fernandes 27′, 57′, Marcus Rashford 65′, Daniel James 90′

Assists: Daniel James 57′, Fred 65′, Eric Bailly 90′

Manchester United beat Real Sociedad 4-0 in the UEFA Europa League round of 32 first leg at the Juventus Stadium in Turin ons Thursday evening. United opened the scoring through Bruno Fernandes in the 27th minute of the match with the Portuguese midfielder scoring his second goal of the match in the 57th minute. Marcus Rashford scored United’s third goal in the 65th minute of the match with Daniel James finding the back of the net minutes later, but he was offside. The Welshman did get another chance, getting the fourth goal of the match in the 90th minute to complete the scoring for United, giving Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side a great chance to make it to the round of 16 stage of the competition.

21 February – Manchester United 3-1 Newcastle United – Premier League

Goals: Marcus Rashford 30′, Daniel James 57′, Bruno Fernandes 75′ penalty; Allan Saint-Maximin 36′

Assists: Harry Maguire 30′, Bruno Fernandes 57′

Manchester United beat Newcastle United 3-1 in the Premier League at Old Trafford. Marcus Rashford put Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side 1-0 up in the 30th minute of the match but the lead was short-lived as Allan Saint-Maximin found the equaliser for the Magpies just six minutes later. In the second half, United found themselves needing to do more to get back in front and that came in the 57th minute after Bruno Fernandes fed the ball to Daniel James, who scored his second goal of the week and his fifth goal of the season. Fernandes sealed the victory for United in the 75th minute after Rashford was fouled in the box, scoring the penalty to secure all three points with a 3-1 victory. Real Sociedad up next for United to confirm a last 16 place in the Europa League.

25 February – Manchester United 0-0 Real Sociedad – UEFA Europa League

Goals: N/A

Assists: N/A

Manchester United drew 0-0 with Real Sociedad at Old Trafford in the UEFA Europa League round of 32 second leg. United’s four goals in the first leg saw them through to the round of 16 in the competition. Bruno Fernandes almost scored in the first half and Axel Tuanzebe found the back of the net with a thundering header in the 63rd minute of the match but because of a Victor Lindelof foul, VAR and the referee ruled out the goal, which was a shame for the defender. Amad Diallo made his home debut with Shola Shoretire becoming the youngest United player to feature in European competition, which will be something for him to be proud of. United will find out their fate in the competition on Friday as the round of 16 draw is made.

28 February – Chelsea 0-0 Manchester United – Premier League

Goals: N/A

Assists: N/A

Manchester United drew 0-0 with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League. Both teams matched each other evenly with United the team to be disappointed from the match which now sees Manchester City 12 points clear at the top of the table with United a point better off than third placed Leicester City, who lost to Arsenal earlier in the day. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side will be happy with the point but not with the fact that they failed to score, which is starting to become a worry at this stage of the season. United will face Crystal Palace on Wednesday evening before the Manchester derby at the Etihad next Sunday, which will see Pep Guardiola rubbing his hands with joy based on United’s current goalscoring form.

Luke Shaw – six appearances, 435 minutes, four assists

Luke Shaw had an impressive month for United during February. Out of the eight matches United played, Shaw played six times, spending 435 minutes on the pitch. He got himself four assist throughout the month with two against Southampton in the 9-0 thrashing, one against Everton in the 3-3 draw and one against West Bromwich Albion in the 1-1 draw. Shaw has made the left-back position his own this season and he has risen in stature, which is great to see. Shaw was impressive in many of the matches he played and more recently against Chelsea, he was one of the standout performers, despite United failing to score a single goal. March is going to be a much more difficult month and hopefully Shaw continue his February form into the new month.

Bruno Fernandes – eight appearances, 625 minutes, six goals, three assists and three MOTM awards.

A month without Bruno Fernandes being mentioned here will be a bad month for United. The Portuguese magnifico made eight appearances throughout February, playing 625 minutes on the pitch for the Red Devils. He scored six goals and three assists (nine goal contributions) which is a great achievement from the midfielder. Fernandes started with a goal and an assist against Southampton, scoring his second goal of the month against Everton. He scored his third goal against West Bromwich Albion, getting numbers four and five against Real Sociedad. Goal number six and assist number three both came against Newcastle United. He won three Man of the Match awards for performances against Everton, West Bromwich Albion and Real Sociedad.

Daniel James – five appearances, 357 minutes, three goals, one assist and one MOTM award.

Daniel James really started to prove himself during February after getting himself back on the pitch for United. He made five appearances in the eight matches United played, scoring three goals and one assist throughout the month. The Welshman’s first goal came against Southampton in added time. He then got a goal and an assist against Real Sociedad in Turin, which was good performance from him. His third goal came against Newcastle United, scoring in two successive matches, which helped grow his confidence. James won the Man of the Match award for his performance against Newcastle, which will help him on his way at the club. He performed well in the second leg against Real Sociedad and against Chelsea, two matches in which United failed to score.

Notable Mentions: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Scott McTominay and Marcus Rashford

Aaron Wan-Bissaka made a total of eight appearances in March, playing 675 minutes of football, which was good to see. He scored one goal and one assist, the goal coming against Southampton and the assist against Everton. The right-back won the Man of the Match award for his performance against Southampton. Scott McTominay also played well in February, making six appearances and playing 435 minutes of football. He scored three goals; Southampton, Everton and West Ham United, winning the Man of the Match award in that match. Marcus Rashford played eight times, spending 652 minutes on the pitch. He scored three goals; Southampton, Real Sociedad and Newcastle United and two assists; Everton and West Ham United.

Who is your Player of the Month for February 2021?

A look at what lies ahead in March…

United will play six matches in March which will give them a bit of a break after the busy months of December, January and February, which saw United play a total of 26 matches. United start the month away in the Premier League as they take on Crystal Palace and then the second Manchester derby of the league season at the Etihad. United’s only home match of the month comes against AC Milan in the UEFA Europa League round of 16 first leg with another trip to London on the cards with a. visit to West Ham United three days later. United then travel to the San Siro to face AC Milan in the second leg match of the round of 16 stage in the Europa League before ending the month at the King Power Stadium facing Leicester City in the Emirates FA Cup.

3 March – Crystal Palace, Selhurst Park – Premier League

7 March – Manchester City, Etihad Stadium – Premier League

11 March – AC Milan, Old Trafford – UEFA Europa League

14 March – West Ham United, London Stadium – Premier League

18 March – AC Milan, San Siro – UEFA Europa League

21 March – Leicester City, King Power Stadium – Emirates FA Cup

Written by John Walker

January Review: Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire and Paul Pogba all had a good month despite mixed results for United

Manchester United played nine matches in January making it just as busy as December, where the same number of matches were played. United started the month with a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa in the Premier League, which was a good start to the month. However, a 2-0 defeat in the semi-final of the Carabao Cup at the hands of Manchester City added some disappointment to the month. United then beat Watford 1-0 in the Emirates FA Cup, earning a place in the fourth round against Liverpool. Next came a 0-0 draw against Liverpool in the Premier League, a frustrating match for both teams.

United then came from behind to beat Fulham 2-1 at Craven Cottage in the Premier League, putting more pressure on Liverpool this season, which would change as the month grew on. The FA Cup clash with Liverpool was a good match for United, resulting in a 3-2 victory, reaching the fifth round of the competition this season. Following that match, a 2-1 defeat to the worst team in the Premier League, Sheffield United came, which was a disappointment for United. The month was ended with a visit to the Emirates to face Arsenal, which resulted in a 0-0 draw, ending the month in a frustrating manner.

January Statistics:

Nine matches played; five wins, two draws and two defeats. 11 Premier League points won, a place in the fourth and fifth rounds of the Emirates FA Cup. 10 goals scored, eight goals conceded – four clean sheets. United entered 2021 in good form and were looking to get through another tough month in domestic competition. They were knockout of the Carabao Cup at the semi-final stage by Manchester City but reached the fourth and the fifth rounds of the Emirates FA Cup with victories over both Watford and Liverpool. In the league, United struggled at times with a defeat to Sheffield United and draws with Liverpool and Arsenal.

1 January – Manchester United 2-1 Aston Villa – Premier League

Goals: Anthony Martial 40′, Bruno Fernandes 62′; Bertrand Traore 58′

Assists: Aaron Wan-Bissaka 40′; Jack Grealish 58′

Manchester United beat Aston Villa 2-1 at Old Trafford in the first Premier League match of 2021. Anthony Martial opened the scoring with a header in the 40th minute of the match (his fifth goal of the season), assisted by Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Villa then equalised in the 58th minute through Bertrand Traore, assisted by Jack Grealish. Minutes later, Paul Pogba was taken down in the box by Douglas Luiz and a penalty was given which Bruno Fernandes stepped up for, scoring his 15th goal of the season. Villa pressure United at the end of the match with United having chances to extend their lead.

6 January – Manchester United 0-2 Manchester City – Carabao Cup

Goals: John Stones 50′, Fernandinho 83′

Assists: N/A

Manchester United were beaten 2-0 by Manchester City in the semi-final of the Carabao Cup at Old Trafford. It was a pretty even first half with United starting well but City soon took control of the match. Both teams had the ball in the back of the net in the first half of the match but none were given. It took City 50 minutes, five minutes into the second half to draw first blood on United with John Stones scoring the first goal of the game. United had chances to get back into the game but did not take them. City doubled their lead through Fernandinho in the 83rd minute, earning a place in the first final of the season. Their go-to trophy.

9 January – Manchester United 1-0 Watford – Emirates FA Cup

Goals: Scott McTominay 5′

Assists: Alex Telles 5′

Manchester United beat Watford 1-0 in the Emirates FA Cup at Old Trafford. Scott McTominay, who captained United in this match, scored the only goal of the game in the fifth minute, assisted by Alex Telles from the corner. There were a few chances throughout the match but United seemed to be out of sorts, as were the visitors. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be happy to see his club into the fourth round of the FA Cup with the draw for that and the fifth round being drawn on Monday evening. United got back to winning ways after being knocked out of the Carabao Cup earlier in the week. Burnley next in the Premier League.

12 January – Burnley 0-1 Manchester United – Premier League

Goals: Paul Pogba 71′

Assists: Marcus Rashford 71′

Manchester United beat Burnley 1-0 at Turf Moor in the Premier League. It put Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side three points clear of Liverpool at the top of the Premier League table. Paul Pogba scored the only goal of the match after playing the ball out to Marcus Rashford on the right with the England forward playing back to the Frenchman whose effort was slightly deflected into the back of the net. Bruno Fernandes did not have the best of matches, but played a part. Anthony Martial will be a worry, coming off injured late into added time. The positivity is that United are top of the league and deserve it.

17 January – Liverpool 0-0 Manchester United – Premier League

Goals: N/A

Assists: N/A

Manchester United drew 0-0 with Liverpool at Anfield in the Premier League. It was a game of few credible chances. Perhaps the best opportunity was from Bruno Fernandes after United won a free-kick in the first half of the match. The ball dipped towards the top far corner, just missing the target and seeing United frustrated. Marcus Rashford had a chance in the second half with Edinson Cavani splitting away from him, Rashford having the ball and the three defensive players and being marked off the ball with Cavani unmarked and in space which could have resulted in the first goal of the game, if he had it.

20 January – Fulham 1-2 Manchester United – Premier League

Goals: Ademola Lookman 5′; Edinson Cavani 21′, Paul Pogba 65′

Assists: Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa 5′

Manchester United beat Fulham 2-1 at Craven Cottage in the Premier League. Ademola Lookman scored the opening goal in the fifth minute as United saw themselves on the back foot from the start of the match. However, it took 16 minutes for United to get back into the match with Bruno Fernandes launching a ferocious shot on goal, hitting the inside of the post only for Fred to keep the attack in play. Edinson Cavani was the equaliser for United, scoring his fifth goal of the season for his club. Paul Pogba scored what turned into the winner for United, with a sublime finish which was good to see.

24 January – Manchester United 3-2 Liverpool – Emirates FA Cup

Goals: Mason Greenwood 26′, Marcus Rashford 48′, Bruno Fernandes 78′; Mohamed Salah 18′, 58′

Assists: Marcus Rashford 26′, Mason Greenwood 48′; Roberto Firmino 18′, 58’

Manchester United beat Liverpool 3-2 in the fourth round of the Emirates FA Cup at Old Trafford. Mohamed Salah opened the scoring in the 18th minute of the match with Mason Greenwood equalising just eight minutes later. Marcus Rashford then put United ahead in the 48th minute with Salah striking once more in the 58th minute to level the score. From the bench, Bruno Fernandes found the winner from a free-kick which was such a great strike to beat Alisson for the third time in the match. This victory feels so good, not for Liverpool though. United will face West Ham United at Old Trafford in the next round.

27 January – Manchester United 1-2 Sheffield United – Premier League

Goals: Harry Maguire 64′; Kean Bryan 23′, Oliver Burke 74′

Assists: Alex Telles 64′; John Fleck 23′, John Lundstram 74′

Manchester United were beaten 2-1 by Sheffield United at Old Trafford. It was another bad day for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, who had been knocked off the top spot in the Premier League table by Manchester City on Tuesday evening. Kean Bryan opened the scoring for the Blades in the 23rd minute of the match with Oliver Burke scoring the winner in the 74th minute of the match. Harry Maguire equalised in the 64th minute of the match but in terms of inspiration, United were not up for the challenge in a dreadful evening at the Theatre of Dreams. United will need to pick up the pieces before get face Arsenal on Saturday.

30 January – Arsenal 0-0 Manchester United – Premier League

Goals: N/A

Assists: N/A

Manchester United drew 0-0 with Arsenal at the Emirates in the Premier League. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had the stronger team with Arsenal suffering with a few injuries. It was a game of few credible chances, something that will unnerve United, who have been playing a poor brand of football in their last two matches, resulting in a defeat and a draw. Arsenal will be the happier of thereto teams, winning four points and keeping two clean sheets against United this season. However, the gap between the two teams is still ten points, so Arsenal have a lot of work ahead of them to close the gap.

Luke Shaw – eight appearances (seven starts), 638 minutes, one MOTM award.

January was an impressive month for Luke Shaw. He made eight appearances, starting seven times, playing 638 minutes in total and winning the Man of the Match award in the 0-0 draw against Liverpool at Anfield in the Premier League. Whilst it initially looked like Alex Telles would take the left-back role from Shaw earlier in the season, the English left-back has soon risen in stature to make the position his own. It is good to see him in form again, which has been ruined in the past with injury, fatigue and fitness issues. The player seems to have turned a corner at the club, which is great for both the player and the club.

Harry Maguire – nine appearances (eight starts), 765 minutes, one goal.

The Captain has been one of the most important players for the club in January. He made nine appearances, starting eight times, playing all but 45 minutes for the club in January. Harry Maguire played a total of 765 minutes during January, coming off the bench at half time against Watford in the FA Cup. He scored United’s only goal in the 2-1 defeat to Sheffield United, a former club of the defender. United kept four clean sheets in January, three of those in the Premier League, which was important for United to continue their improvement, which stuttered at the end of the month.

Paul Pogba – eight appearances (eight starts), 720 minutes, two goals and two MOTM awards.

December was a positive month for Paul Pogba, but January was something he built because of the prior month. The Frenchman missed just one match, the FA Cup victory over Watford. Pogba’s best performances in January came in the Premier League, scoring goals against Burnley and Fulham and being named the Man of the Match in both of those matches. Against Aston Villa at the start of the month, Pogba won a penalty, which Bruno Fernandes scored, enabling the Red Devils to win the match which was a great start for the club in January. Pogba will be seeking to make February a positive month for the club too.

Notable Mentions: Eric Bailly, Alex Telles, Scott McTominay

Eric Bailly had a good January, in the matches that he did play in, playing a total of 315 minutes in four appearances during the month and earning one Man of the Match award for his performance against Aston Villa in which United won 2-1. Bailly could be a good partner for Harry Maguire at the club, providing he can stay fit. Alex Telles was another notable mention, making two appearances, playing a total of 172 minutes on the pitch and assisting twice. Scott McTominay was the final notable mention, making eight appearances, playing 453 minutes of football, scoring one goal and winning one Man of the Match award – against Watford.

Who is your Player of the Month for January 2021?

A look at what lies ahead in February…

United will play eight matches in February, one less than in both December and January. United will continue their efforts in the Premier League, facing Southampton (H), Everton (H), West Bromwich Albion (A), Newcastle United (H) and Chelsea (A), also vying to reach the quarter-final of the Emirates FA Cup, providing they beat West Ham United (H). Solskjaer’s side will also play their first matches in the UEFA Europa League, facing Real Sociedad both away and at home in the round of 32 stage of the competition, hoping to reach the round of 16 stage, following their group stage exit from the UEFA Champions League.

2 February – Southampton, Old Trafford – Premier League

6 February – Everton, Old Trafford – Premier League

9 February – West Ham United, Old Trafford – Emirates FA Cup

14 February – West Bromwich Albion, The Hawthorns – Premier League

18 February – Real Sociedad, Anoeta Stadium – UEFA Europa League

21 February – Newcastle United, Old Trafford – Premier League

25 February – Real Sociedad, Old Trafford – UEFA Europa League

28 February – Chelsea, Stamford Bridge – Premier League

Written by John Walker

Luke Shaw’s Manchester United future could be at risk with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looking towards Ben Chilwell – reports

Manchester United will allegedly battle it out with Chelsea to try to sign Leicester City left-back Ben Chilwell this summer, according to reports. It is suggested that Leicester will demand £60 million for the left-back this summer, a player that has been on Chelsea’s radar for a long time now. Seemingly, reports suggest that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is interested too.

This season at Leicester, Chilwell has made a total of 33 appearances, scoring three goals and adding a further four assists, which seems positive coming from the fullback area. Shaw, on the other hand has 32 appearances in all competitions, scoring one goal and assisting three more. It is not a bad comparison, considering.

If United do get involved in a move for Chilwell, it could spell trouble at United for Shaw, who has not had the best of careers at the Old Trafford club but has shown an improvement this season with Solskjaer seemingly holding out for more. The best teams in the Premier League and beyond were build on solid defending, which is the key to success.

As Sir Alex Ferguson one stated; “attack wins you games, defence wins you titles,” which is something that he firmly believed and for most of his time managing United, he did have a solid defence. When you look at players such as Denis Irwin and Patrice Evra, he really had some great left-backs at the club, stabilising the defence and helping the attack.

Solskjaer seems to model himself on Ferguson, which is a great manager to model yourself on and he clearly has plans to have sone success at United. Whether it is success like what Ferguson brought to the club remains to be seen but the Norwegian manager is clearly seeking to get something sorted at the Old Trafford club.

United have some depth in the position with Brandon Williams coming through from the academy this season and he is capable of playing at both left-back and right-back, which shows the strength in depth at the club in these positions. If Solskjaer did sign Chilwell, or another left-back, it would be Shaw that loses out, not Williams, who could be the future.

Marcus Rashford can become the ‘best player in the world’ and win the Ballon d’Or, says Luke Shaw

Manchester United left-back Luke Shaw believes that teammate Marcus Rashford has become a top player at the Old Trafford. At the age of 22, Rashford has been lauded for his off the pitch activities, taking a big interest in social matters and feeding poorer people. However, on the pitch, his teammate believes something special is happening.

Rashford was in great form when he suffered a devastating injury earlier in the year, breaking two bones in his back. The United forward has made a total of 31 appearances playing in the Premier League, the Carabao Cup, the Emirates FA Cup and the UEFA Europa League, scoring 19 goals and six assists. Shaw, speaking of his talented teammate, said:

“There’s no reason why, if he keeps going, keeps pushing himself, that he can’t win it one day.

“He knows he has the ability to be one of the best and he’s pushing himself all the time to maximise that.

“He’s looked unstoppable at times this season and he’s looked so confident. I haven’t seen that in him before.

“He was always confident, but not to this level, and he’s matured so much.

“He’s improved greatly from when he first came on the scene, not just on the pitch, but off the pitch as well.

“He always wants to learn, always wants to get better and, to me, he’s getting better every time I see him play.

“He’s matured so much. He’s really turned into a man.”

During the coronavirus pandemic with the country on lockdown, Rashford, who had already learned English Sign Language in order to judge a competition, decided that more could be done for people of the country who needed some extra help, so he paired with FareShare, providing food for vulnerable children. Shaw said:

“I think everyone’s seen the way he’s conducted himself off the pitch, especially during this pandemic, he’s been unbelievable.

“He’s a big inspiration for a lot of young people, especially the ones who are coming through from Manchester.

“In Marcus, they’ve got someone to look up to not just on the pitch but off it too, which is really nice to see.

“He’s a massive example to everyone.

“He’s matured so much and a lot of credit for that goes to him and also to his family, who have kept him very grounded.”

One thing is for sure, Rashford has so much more to give, seemingly both on the football pitch and away from the game and I think he will continue doing both. It is great to see a footballer that does not forget where he came from. If he does indeed find himself nominated for the Ballon d’Or in the future, it will be something that the player deserves, whether he wins or not.

Brandon Williams can put pressure on Luke Shaw’s position at Manchester United

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.

Does Luke Shaw have what it takes to succeed at Manchester United?

Luke Shaw signed for Manchester United in the summer of 2014, signing from Southampton for £27 million. Just 18 at the time, Shaw was tipped to become the first-choice left-back for both club and country. Around a month later, Louis van Gaal became the manager of the club after guiding the Netherlands to third-place in the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Initially, Shaw did well at the club, despite poor fitness and a long injury list. In his second season at the club, in the UEFA Champions League, which was missing from Van Gaal’s first season, Shaw suffered a double leg fracture against PSV Eindhoven, a near career-ending injury which literally wrote off his season.

Shaw made his competitive return in the FA Community Shield victory over Leicester City at the start of the 2016/17 season, under Jose Mourinho as Van Gaal was sacked after winning the Emirates FA Cup at the end of the 2015/16 season. Shaw made just 19 appearances that season, which was not a great return, suffering more injuries.

Shaw missed a total of 25 matches during the 2016/17 season, a season which saw United win the EFL Cup and the UEFA Europa League, along with the FA Community Shield at the start of the season. The left-back’s season ended at the end of April though, with a foot injury, meaning he would miss the Europa League final that season.

Shaw made his return about a month into the 2017/18 season but only made 19 appearances with Ashley Young playing many fixtures at left-back and establishing himself as the best option in the position for Mourinho. The Portuguese manager was suggested, albeit by supporters, to have bullied Shaw by criticising him for his fitness and injury record.

The same supporters will have been mocking him for his weight, fitness and injury problems since, which just shows how fickle a fan base can become. Shaw did not make the England squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Young did. Shaw last played for England during the 2018/19 season, a 2-1 defeat against Spain in the UEFA Nations League.

The 2018/19 season was Shaw’s best at the club, making 40 appearances in all competitions, double his highest number of appearances in his first season at the club. He also scored his first goal for the club against Leicester City in the opening Premier League match of the season. It. ay have been a good season for Shaw, for United it was not.

Mourinho saw himself sacked after a 3-1 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield in December 2018, which saw Ole Gunnar Solskjaer named as the caretaker manager from the next match, which was against Cardiff City, a club Solskjaer managed. United won that match 5-1 and went on an good run, suggesting problems may have been caused by Mourinho.

However, the United we saw under Mourinho returned and Solskjaer, to this day, has a poor record at the club and is trying to rebuild in order to bring the United we all want to see back again. Shaw will need to start showing signs of reaching the level he was expected to after signing for the club in 2014. Something he may or may not do.

On the 18 October 2018, a year ago, Shaw signed a new long-term contract with the club, remaining at the Theatre of Dreams until the summer of 2023, although a further year was added into the contract, which could see him last ten years at the club. For that to happen though, things would need to change.

At times, Shaw has played well and driven the team forward, but at other times, he seems to have been carried by other players, which has led to United not achieving the results that may have been desired. In the third match of the 2019/20 season, the 201 defeat to Crystal Palace, Shaw suffered a thigh injury, missing the last eight matched in all competitions.

The now 24-year-old still has a good future ahead of him but finds himself in another position that means he will need to raise his game. Injury, a lack of fitness and fatigue has seen five years pass with little to shout about for Shaw and this season will be a big one for him, especially with the likes of Brandon Williams making the first team in his absence.

Williams, 18, has played twice for the first team this season, playing 45 minutes against Rochdale in the third round of the Carabao Cup, a 1-1 draw, 5-3 victory on penalties, also playing the following week, 90 minutes this time in the 0-0 draw with AZ Alkmaar in the Europa League. Shaw has been training since before that match, so is ready to return.

It is safe to say that United has struggled with Shaw on the sidelines again which has led to reports suggesting that the club will be seeking to sign another fullback either in January or during the summer transfer window. This might be to replace Shaw or give him competition, although it might create a cul-de-sac for young Williams.

The question is, does Luke Shaw have what it takes to succeed at Manchester United? After five years, the jury is still out. He’s made 109 appearances for United, this being his sixth season at the club, scoring just one goal. This season will be one where he will be expected to bring more to the team. After injuries etc, he deserves the chance to prove himself, however, it will not easy for him to achieve this.

Manchester United could have some players back from injury against Liverpool but will it make a difference?

Manchester United will be back in action in the Premier League on Sunday as they welcome league leaders Liverpool to the Theatre of Dreams in the clubs first local derby of the season. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team owe the supporters a performance worthy of the support they have been given but that could be problematic with injuries.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Luke Shaw, Victor Lindelof, Phil Jones, Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Mason Greenwood have all suffered injuries with some expected to be back soon. Diogo Dalot was injured in his last match, whilst both Eric Bailly and Tim Fosu-Mensah remain on the sidelines recovering from knee surgery before the end of the year.

It has been suggested in the media that Paul Pogba could be back for the Liverpool match, however, reports have also suggested that he will miss the clash. I guess if you cover both bases, you have a good chance at being right, which is something the media do at times, all in plain sight so many don’t question it, instead use it as propaganda against the manager.

Victor Lindelof is reportedly getting ready to play for Sweden against Spain on Tuesday, which could suggest he will be back in the squad to face Liverpool. Aaron Wan-Bissaka has been absent for the last three matches suffering from tonsillitis, with hope that he will be able to play after sitting out for the international break also.

Luke Shaw has missed eight matches along with Anthony Martial, both of whom suffered thigh injuries in the 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace back in August. Shaw has been training since before the 0-0 draw against AZ Alkmaar, so could be ready to fortify the left-back position but Martial could still be a doubt as he might not have trained yet.

Phil Jones could also be back, although he has played just 135 minutes of football this season, is unlikely to start many big matches. Axel Tuanzebe has risen well ahead of him in the defensive ranks this season, which is a good thing, in my opinion. Solskjaer also suggested that Jesse Lingard, who missed Newcastle United defeat, may be back for this match.

Mason Greenwood, who has played a lot of football with both Martial and Marcus Rashford having time on the sidelines so far this season, suffered a lower back injury against Newcastle, which stopped him from playing for England U21s during the international break. He will be assessed ahead of the Liverpool match, which is not great news.

Diogo Dalot is also back on the sidelines through injury, suffering more of the same, to do with his hip, which kept him out earlier this season, which also suggests the problem was not solved and may have been prolonged. Not that he’s a big miss, as he is unlikely to start at right-back much this season based on his lack of experience.

Both Bailly and Fosu-Mensah are expected to be out until at least late December, in Bailly’s case, not return date for the Dutch defender, which might mean he will be out until 2020. United, however, are not crying out for defensive reinforcement yet, which is a positive at this time, not that many will see it that way. Some players seem to be made of glass now.

Hypothetically, if it were expected that Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Shaw and Pogba, Lingard and Martial were all back in the team against Liverpool, would it make much of a difference? That is a question that many will answer right away negatively, as the fan base, at least on social media is toxic and heading much deeper than that.

Some will wonder if these ‘people’ are actually supporters of the club or whether they are supporters of the decline, moaning about anything and everything. United have not had much luck this season. Injuries have been costly to this already threadbare squad and talent, determination and desire were already scarce before injury took its toll.

United should be fired up for matches such as this one against Liverpool. They were up for the clash against Chelsea at the start of the season, the best performance of the season incidentally. United has a history of playing in these big matches and all of the players who are fit to play should have the desire, determination, and hunger to achieve.

Manchester United trio ruled out of Leicester clash. Youth need to be given a chance but will they?

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has confirmed that Luke Shaw, Paul Pogba, and Anthony Martial will miss the Premier League match against Leicester City at Old Trafford on Saturday. It was also confirmed that Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Jesse Lingard have a chance to feature for United this weekend.

Solskjaer has eight players on the sidelines currently with Eric Bailly and Tim Fosu-Mensah, who are both recovering from knee injuries and Diogo Dalot, who has a hip injury. In order to find a squad capable of beating Leicester this weekend, the manager will need to draft in some of the fringe players in order to aim to get a result.

However, with the liked of Marcos Rojo, Ashley Young, Nemanja Matic, and Juan Mata, despite the fact they have the experience, it hardly suggests that they are going to bring in the ‘must win at all costs’ mentality. However, if talented youth players were given a chance, they will give their all in a bid to show that they are ready for the first-team.

United will no doubt miss Martial but whether they miss Pogba is another story as he has not really pulled it out of the bag this season so there is really nothing to miss. Perhaps sitting out of matches is necessary for him to find his love of the club and the game, wanting to give his all for this club, if not, is he really going to be a suitable player on the pitch?

In order for Solskjaer to continue his rebuilding of the club, he needs to look at other options at his disposal, rather than relying on players that have failed to ‘inspire and achieve’ for much of the last six years. We already know that the usual suspects will let the side down, which is not rebuilding, it is trying the same thing over and over again.

I would like to see Ethan Laird, if fit, Brandon Williams, Angel Gomes, James Garner, Mason Greenwood, Tahith Chong, and maybe even Largie Ramazani given a chance this season. Some of them would be ideal at this moment in time considering the injuries in the squad. All seven of these players will fit into the areas weakened by injury.

Laird could play at right-back, Williams at left-back, Garner could fill in for Pogba, Gomes for Lingard, Greenwood for Martial with the others on the bench ready for an opportunity should they be needed. This would be a more positive approach than utilising Rojo, who wants to leave the club and Matic, who is too slow to play in this squad.

With the injury news, it is clear that Marcus Rashford will lead the line again, with Daniel James playing on the left. Greenwood could play on the right. If Solskjaer utilises the 4-3-3 formation, Gomes could be playing as the more advanced midfielder with Garner and Scott McTominay dealing with distribution and defensive midfield aspects of the game.

Not only would this send a message to those who have continued to allow the decline of this club, it would give the supporters hope that Solskjaer is the manager that will inspire youth as United really do have some great players coming through the ranks. Risks need to be taken in order to see if it could work. At least something was tested for the future.

copyright: JW