The left-back position is one that has alluded Manchester United in recent seasons during their quest to reconquer English football. Since the departure of Patrice Evra in 2014, no player has managed to make the position their own.
Instead, fans and coaches alike have been left frustrated by a slew of inadequate candidates failing to provide anything other than sheer mediocrity.
That was, however, until a newly-rejuvenated Luke Shaw triumphantly climbed to the top of the pecking order, showing glimpses of why United forked out so much on bringing the then-teenager to Old Trafford.
Jose Mourinho now has options as to who he can pick at left-back. Last season, Ashley Young was the Special One’s favoured option. But fans have since grown tired of Young’s lack of attacking prowess.
Young was crucial in big-game scenarios last season, providing some much-needed maturity and experience to the United back-line. For example: he managed to completely nullify the attacking threat of Mohamed Salah against Liverpool in March.
However, so far this season, Luke Shaw has shown fans exactly what they’ve been missing in recent times.
With both players playing a role in Jose’s matchday squads this season, it’s time to compare who’s enjoyed a more promising start to the 2018/19 Premier League campaign.
Last season’s statistics:
It’s probably unfair to compare statistics for the two last season given Shaw’s lack of game time. But we’re going to anyway.
In the Premier League last season, Luke Shaw featured in just 11 games while Young played 29. In terms of defensive stats, Shaw averaged more tackles won per 90 metrics, beating Young’s tally of 0.96 with 1.61.
Next, Young managed to make significantly more interceptions per 90 metrics with 2.03. Meanwhile, Shaw managed only 0.46. In terms of the number of chances created, Shaw edges out Young – but only just. He managed 1.03 per 90 metrics compared to Young’s 0.88.
Finally, Young again comes out on top in terms of the average number of assists per 90 metrics with 0.16. Meanwhile, Shaw managed 0.
This season’s statistics (attack):
Onto this season and there’s a stark contrast in what the statistics show. In an attacking sense, Shaw has been much more convincing.
In the Premier League, Shaw has scored one goal and even managed to tally an assist. Meanwhile, Young hasn’t tallied any goals or assists. Shaw has averaged a passing accuracy of 81% compared to Young’s 68%.
Furthermore, Shaw has won 59% of his duels, while Young has managed just 45%. Finally, Shaw has managed to successfully complete 100% of his dribbles, compared to Young’s measly tally of 38%.
However, Young manages to get the better of Shaw in terms of the average number of big chances created per game. Shaw hasn’t managed any while Young edges him out slightly with one.
This season’s statistics (defence):
You’d think that Young’s experience and defensive solitude last season would mean he’d come out victorious in this category.
Nevertheless, it’s Shaw who once again emerges on top. The only area Young got the better of the two is in the percentage of tackles won per game (which you could argue is the most important statistic). Young manages 50% per game while Shaw manages just 33.3%.
However, Shaw’s 1.2 interceptions per game compared to Young’s 1 shows how sharp he now is. Furthermore, Shaw has averaged 3.2 clearances per game this season compared to Young’s 2.7 and has only been dispossessed 0.7 times per game compared to Young’s 1.3.
Both players, however, are yet to make a serious error leading to a goal, meaning they have been equally composed on the ball. Compare this to, say, Victor Lindelof this season and I’m sure it would be a different story.
To conclude, it’s clear to see that the statistics show just how much Shaw has improved since last season. Fans have always known him to be more threatening in attack compared to Young. But now, he’s also more convincing in defence.
He once again has the confidence to bomb forward and be a nuisance to opposing defenders and has the defensive chops to match. Shaw is a much more composed player this season. His determination to rise from being one of Mourinho’s most-criticised players to most-applauded is commendable.
Hopefully, his form continues. To become one of the only beacons of hope in a squad that’s been so poor is no easy feat. But Shaw has been known for his courage in adversity.
If United are to close the gap between them and rivals Manchester City, then a fully fit and in-form Shaw is going to be crucial.