Luke Shaw in focus: Left-back recovers form to impress in derby

Amarachi Orie takes an in-depth look at Luke Shaw’s performance in Manchester United’s 0-0 draw against Manchester City.

Manchester United and Manchester City played out a goalless draw at Old Trafford on Saturday as both teams played with caution and reserve. After having lost to Tottenham 6-1 earlier in the season and after having crashed out of the Champions League by conceding three goals to RB Leipzig midweek, United clearly did not want to repeat old mistakes. They kept a solid defence throughout the game and, while they were not able to score, they made sure their opponents did not get the chance to either. Luke Shaw played an important role in maintaining the clean sheet.

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Shaw made a return from a hamstring injury in Tuesday night’s match against RB Leipzig. He played as a centre-back and struggled to get a hold on the game. In the 61st minute, he was substituted off the pitch. Against Manchester City, it was a different story. The left-back played in his rightful position among a back four. He was solid throughout and made himself present whenever his team needed him. In the first half, he kept Riyad Mahrez and Kyle Walker well policed. He was quick to intercept passes and make tackles to dispossess them, allowing United to venture forward.  

The only problem was that United were also easily dispossessed. Once Shaw regained possession of the ball for his team, they were not able to hold onto it for long. The England international took three corners in the first half and only one had the potential to materialise into a goal. In the 31st minute, Harry Maguire’s header from a corner kick went over the bar. Neither of the two sides were clinical; neither of the teams tested the goalkeepers. Part of the reason for this, however, was a solid defence, which meant that threats tended not to get too close to goal.

City’s first major opportunity in the game came when Shaw decided to leave Mahrez unmarked. In the 35th minute, Shaw moved towards the centre in order to get close to Kevin De Bruyne and try to stop City’s press early. However, he was nutmegged in the process and De Bruyne’s pass reached an free-roaming Mahrez, who was able to take a shot at goal. While the shot was not fruitful, Shaw leaving the left side of the pitch caused his team to be dangerously exposed. Despite this hiccup, he was soon back to making crucial tackles, dispossessing Raheem Sterling in extra-time of the first half, who was charging forward and who had already broken away from Victor Lindelof.

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In the second half, Shaw continued in the same form. He successfully disposed De Bruyne in the 50th minute – no opponent was too intimidating for him. He then spent the rest of his time contending with Ferran Torres, who was substituted into the game in place of Mahrez in the 66th minute, and with great success. In the 67th minute Shaw wrestled the ball away from Torres in the penalty box, regaining possession for United and dissipating the threat of the visitors. For the short time Torres was on the pitch, the left-back refused to give him breathing space.

This is the way it should be if United want to continue to progress in the league. They should not be giving their opponents space. Tottenham are four points ahead of United in the Premier League table having played the same number of games. While this does not seem like a large gap to close, a deficit of four points puts Manchester United down at eighth on the table. They might be above City, but they need to start dispossessing teams of their places above them if they want to challenge for more than just top four.

Follow Amarachi on Twitter @iamarachii

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