Last weekend’s narrow defeat to Champions elect Chelsea aside, Louis Van Gaal finally seems to have found something of a winning formula at Manchester United.
His selections and tactics of late may have been partially dictated by injuries and suspensions, but they have seen United put together a run which propels them into prime position for Champions League qualification.
Is it genius reaping the rewards for faith shown in his own philosophy, or a happy accident?
The truth is somewhere between the two.
One feature of the Dutch boss’ in-form side has been the use of compatriot Daley Blind at left back. Has Blind now claimed the position for himself or is Van Gaal simply deploying him there until he can coax the best from young Luke Shaw?
The signing of Blind last summer was an interesting one. Most player purchases these days are completed with a particular position in mind but the Dutchman was almost certainly not brought to Old Trafford as a left-back, or a right-back, or for that matter, a midfielder.
Van Gaal drafted him in because he knew him, knew his personality and qualities. If ever there was a willing utility man, then it is Daley Blind.
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His versatility and attitude means he will never be far from the coach’s first team plans. If cover is needed he will be the go-to-guy. The former Ajax man possesses enough quality to play in midfield, enough energy for full back and enough tenacity for a man-marking role.
He has also rescued vital points for United this season by chipping in with a couple of late goals.
The 25-year-old has done a fantastic job on the left of United’s defence in recent weeks and formed a good relationship with the resurgent Ashley Young. What does this mean then, for the man signed to be the Red Devils’ left-back for the next decade, the next Patrice Evra or Dennis Irwin?
That man is Luke Shaw. The former Southampton star was recruited to succeed Evra, for what is a world-record fee for a teenager, £30million.
The transition from life on the south coast to one of Europe’s biggest clubs was never going to be straight forward and Shaw has struggled to really make his mark since arriving. Early in the season questions surrounding his fitness circulated in the media and he spent some time on the bench.
Van Gaal publicly stated that the teenager’s condition was not suitable for a place in the starting line-up, especially the wing-back role required by the formation being used at the time. Since then Shaw has enjoyed some game time and has put in a few solid performances but is still to hit the heights he reached at St Mary’s.
The former young player of the year has missed sections of the season due to injury but was able to return to the fray at Stamford Bridge last week when Blind himself picked up a knock.
Despite losing out to the Dutchman over the last month or so, it would be a safe bet that Shaw will start in the next game. Blind is struggling with a knock, but even if passed fit he is likely to be pushed into midfield as cover for Michael Carrick.
This frees up the left back role for the young England International. It is this very versatility, combined with his consistency that means Blind will always be pushing for a start without having to a make a position his own.
Shaw may be required to play second fiddle for now but ultimately he has every opportunity to become the first-choice left back.
He also possesses the right attributes in terms of his pace and crossing ability. Competition from his current rival will be intermittent depending on what selection problems Van Gaal is faced with.
The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss will surely see Shaw as the future of the club in the left-back slot but will be happy his ever reliable lieutenant can be stationed there until the 19-year-old is ready.