Jose Mourinho must play Luke Shaw at Manchester United’s left-back

Englishman is only 21 years old, but going forward he is far more emphatic player for position than Daley Blind or Matteo Darmian, writes Thomas Woods.

Luke Shaw, right, has had injury problems but could still be a long-term prospect at Manchester United. Oli Scarff / AFP
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Manchester United will be happy with a point from their meeting with Liverpool on Sunday, given that they played below their potential.

The match highlighted one area that is holding United back – the left-back position.

Jose Mourinho seems to have settled on at least nine of his regular starting XI, with only one forward spot and the left-back position uncertain.

Matteo Darmian, normally a right-back, played there on Sunday and has become the de facto starter.

Daley Blind has also played there and Luke Shaw was first-choice going into the season.

Neither Darmian nor Blind is a long-term solution, however, to the question of who holds the role.

Blind has excellent technique but lacks pace. Darmian is an all-effort, full-blooded full-back but he is right footed and in certain match-ups – against Tottenham Hotspur’s Moussa Sissoko earlier this season for example – he is clearly second best.

That brings us to Shaw who seems to have lost his way at United. He has been injured recently, but he has also yet to earn Mourinho’s trust. Questions exist about his temperament, too.

But Shaw, going forward, is a far more emphatic player for the position than Blind or Darmian.

A glance over to the other side of the pitch shows the effect a trustworthy attacking full-back can have.

Antonio Valencia has been impressive this season at right-back and one of United’s most important attacking players with his constant overlaps.

But down the left United does not get that pace or the regular overlaps from the left-back.

Darmian is unspectacular – he does not beat players like Valencia and, while he can cross with his weaker left foot – it is not a strong point.

It leaves Mourinho comfortable picking a player such as Henrikh Mkhitaryan or the less pacey Juan Mata on the right side of United’s attack.

But the Portuguese manager always plumps for pure pace on the left – Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard or Marcus Rashford.

You could argue that United are bit unbalanced.

A United side with both Mata and Mkhitaryan starting would be something else but Mourinho only usually starts one or the other.

Look at United’s top-six rivals. They all have strong full-backs, particularly Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal.

It is one area where United are lagging behind and, despite playing some excellent football over the past two months, they are still outside the top four.

There were rumours that old boy Patrice Evra might return to Old Trafford from Juventus in the January transfer window, but that is highly unlikely to happen.

If Mourinho is not going to recruit then maybe the answer is within.

Shaw is just 21 and it is only 12 months since a terrible leg break ended his 2015/16 campaign.

We have seen what Mourinho has done for Phil Jones, another young defender who was in danger of seeing his career stall after several unconvincing seasons and a lot of injuries.

Now it is time to work on Shaw, who can be United and England’s left-back for the next 10 years if Mourinho and he can overcome his mental and physical hurdles.

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