Manchester United continued a resounding return to competitive action following the 2022 World Cup in Qatar after sinking newly-promoted strugglers Nottingham Forest 3-0 at Old Trafford on Tuesday night.
Indeed, the Red Devils now boast three wins on the trot across all competitions and perch just one point outside the top four with a game in hand – with Tottenham Hotspur dropping points against Brentford on Boxing Day, drawing 2-2.
The display of Casemiro was undoubtedly eye-catching – with the midfielder earning a match-topping 8.6 Sofascore match rating – but it is the performance of an out-of-position star that will have truly left United’s boss waxing lyrical to his tactical team as he plans ahead for what is set to be an enthralling and jam-packed second stage of the campaign.
Luke Shaw assumed a role in the centre of the defence against Forest, and exhibited all the aptitude of a player well accustomed to the position, rebuffing the forward advances of the opposition and starting the frontal transitions with slick passing play, with one MUFC fan page heralding him for his “unreal performance” under the lights at the Theatre of Dreams.
Lauded as “fantastic” for his excellent performance by Liam Camming, Shaw truly stepped up to the plate against an outfit that have displayed signs of improvement after a woeful start to their return in the English top-flight, with just one loss over their last six prior matches across all competitions.
With Statman Dave stating on Twitter it was “like he’s played there all his life“, Shaw certainly staked a major claim for his pedigree as a definitive force in Ten Hag’s team.
Often earning the plaudits for the offensive edge to his game, the 28-cap ace has made 17 appearances this term, earning two assists, with every outing before his latest clash placing his down the left.
As per Sofascore, the 27-year-old made an incredible 100 passes, earning a passing accuracy of 90% and instigating promising manoeuvres by succeeding with five of his eight attempted long balls.
He also demonstrated his physicality and prowess in the air by winning four of his five duels – including all three aerial contests – and made a tackle, three interceptions and two clearances.
He encapsulated the modern dynamism that can segregate the good players from the great, and his elite ball-playing skills and growing defensive pedigree will leave him in good stead for a future starring role at the club.
Amid an injury conundrum, Man United found an unlikely saviour in Shaw as the sturdy wall in front of David De Gea‘s goal, and while he will certainly prefer his marauding role up and down the left flank, his prowess as a centre-back has now been illuminated to the footballing world, bolstering his club’s options ahead of a busy and important schedule and concurrently boosting his own standing within the Premier League.