If reports are to be believed, then Luke Shaw’s impressive exploits at Manchester United this season have rewarded him with a new big-money long-term contract. The supposed five-year deal will be worth an estimated £150,000 per week.
Shaw’s remarkable turnaround in form has been nothing short of a fairy tale for United amidst a tepid season thus far. Throughout the ever-growing uncertainty surrounding Jose Mourinho‘s future, Shaw has been an inspiration, showing how hard work and determination can be rewarded.
Mourinho had previously brought his criticisms of Shaw’s attitude and fitness into the public eye. Now, the Gaffer, who was once the 23-year-old’s biggest naysayer, has made him an integral part of his team.
Just how far has Shaw come since arriving at United? Let’s take a look:
Bursting onto the scene at Manchester United
Having been slapped with a hefty £27million price tag, both the club and its fans would have hoped for Shaw to hit the ground running. However, the opening moments of his United career proved to be difficult for the young full-back.
Shaw was recruited the same time as former boss Louis van Gaal. After an impressive World Cup campaign in the summer of 2014, Van Gaal brought discipline to his squad, which was seen through his tactics.
Similar to his Dutch side, Van Gaal brought a three-at-the-back system that saw Shaw frequently implemented in a more advanced position than he was used to. Fans grew frustrated with the Dutchman’s use of this system, given that he often struggled to fit all of his star players into a starting XI.
Eventually, Shaw was reverted back to his more comfortable position on the left of a back four, where he saw far greater success at the beginning of the 2015/16 season.
In this system, Shaw managed an average of 1.80 tackles won per 90 metrics compared to 1.53. His more defensive role provided more stability in defence, also managing a successful take-on percentage of 54.55% in the Premier League compared to 45.83% the previous year.
His most impressive displays in his opening two seasons at the club came in the 2015/16 Champions League season, where he formed a formidable partnership on the left flank behind Memphis Depay.
Shaw frequently charged forward with the ball, playing one-two passes with team-mates on the inner channels before overlapping and getting into crossing positions. Unfortunately, his season was famously cut short by a broken leg he suffered against PSV.
Luke Shaw’s season so far
Not only has Shaw proven himself to be the United’s best option at left-back, but perhaps the Red Devils’ best outfield player this season so far.
In his seven league games, Shaw has scored one goal and even managed an assist. The goal in question came in this season’s opener against Leicester, where Shaw burst into the box to clinch a tough three points.
Previous incarnations of Shaw would perhaps not be so confident in attack. But now, after a promising pre-season, Shaw was determined to impress Mourinho.
The 23-year-old has been a revelation, both in attack and defence. He’s managed a passing accuracy of 81%, as well as winning 45% of his tackles on average.
Most notably, Shaw has shown a desire to join the attack that we haven’t seen so much from Ashley Young. Having an additional threat down the left flank allows the likes of Martial, Rashford, and Sanchez to occupy the inner channels in front of goal – which is where they are most threatening.
Having a left-footed left-back has also been handy. Too often have we seen Ashley Young stall play because of his tendency to cut inside on his stronger right foot for crosses. Meanwhile, Shaw’s crossing has been more direct and fluid.
Shaw has also proven to be much more composed in defence than we have previously seen. He’s won 59% of duels and has made 0 errors that have led to a shot or even a goal.
Shaw’s contract was due to run out in the summer. While we expected him to extend his stay at Old Trafford following these impressive showings, the fact that United have offered him such a long and lucrative deal shows how important the club believes he is.
It’s fair to say that United have fallen short of their ambitions to compete against the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City in the title race. However, news of Shaw’s new contract will give fans at least something to cheer about.
As the transfer window opened at the beginning of the summer, many fans’ number one priority would have been to recruit a new left-back. Now, fans can rest easy knowing that a fully-fit Luke Shaw firing on all cylinders is one of the first names on the teamsheet.