Euro 2021: Luke Shaw is the Perfect man to Start in a Back 3

To Make England Euro 2021 23 Man Squad

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Luke Shaw's transformation has to be noticed

Luke Shaw has been arguably the best Premier League left-back this season with both his attacking and defensive contributions catching the eye. The Southampton academy graduate who made the move to Old Trafford back in 2014 finally looks to be fulfilling the potential that made United fork out a world record fee of £30m for the then 18-year-old and bar Bruno Fernandes, he’s arguably been Manchester United’s best this season.

It has not been all plain sailing for Shaw who has had his fair share of ups and downs since joining United with plenty of criticism and injuries constantly throwing curveballs at him. We take a look at how he is the perfect man to go to Euro 2021.

He's outperforming everyone

The Shaw of the Jose Mourinho era at Old Trafford looks like a thing of the past. After being accused of being overweight in uncertain terms by the former United the boss, the left-back has developed into one of the finest in the country, seemingly reaping the rewards of not only his hard work, but a manager in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer that now believes in him.

This has easily been Shaw’s finest campaign to date in a United shirt, despite winning the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year in 2019. The added pressure of recent signing Alex Telles from Porto has seemingly taken the 25-year-old up a gear, and one that has given him competition to maintain a starting place.

This season, the Englishman has made 18 Premier League appearances for United, conceded 19 goals (six of which came in one game against Tottenham Hotspur), keeping five clean sheets and contributing five assists to his teammates - only Lucas Digne and Aaron Creswell have more from a defensive position this season.

His all-around game is noteworthy, but his defending has gone up a notch

Shaw's defensive improvement is there for all to see, which was solidified particularly in his two recent performances against Liverpool in both the Premier League and FA Cup meetings between the two sides. The Englishman showcased his ability to defend admirably against some of the best Premier League’s players with him putting in outstanding displays against the likes of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane in both meetings.

Performances which are of stark contrast to ones that saw Shaw widely mocked just a few seasons back. Quick and agile players always seemingly used to get the better of the left-back, but now the much-improved Shaw seems to relish these challenges and he is proving to be the best defensive left-back in the Premier League.

This all comes not long after the Englishman was playing in a back three at United under Jose Mourinho, with Ashley Young moved out to wing, whilst Shaw operated the left-sided centre-back role. Solskjaer also experimented with it briefly and on both occasions, Shaw emphasised his defensive brilliance, combining pace with tackling authority.

Whilst United don't play this formation any more, the club's number 23 has proven he can do it and with England likely lining up in just that way in the summer, Shaw could become the perfect asset for Gareth Southgate. Alongside likely Harry Maguire and John Stones, Shaw could slot in a centre-back alongside the two, with Kyle Walker's lack of minutes likely forcing his usual spot out of the window.

With the Three Lions lining up this way, Southgate has more defensive stability, more pace to cover the less mobile Maguire, and it then allows Ben Chilwell to potentially occupy the left wing back role.

Who is Shaw's competition to go to Euro 2021?

Whilst Shaw can go in as a member of the back three, it's still likely he will be chosen out of the left-back options, considering Eric Dier, Maguire, Stones are all a very low price with the bookies and expected to go, as opposed to the full-backs.

A year or so ago, Ben Chilwell would have been many peoples pick to start at left-back for England. But after some injury issues, the left-back’s start to life at Stamford Bridge has almost been reminiscent of Shaw’s at Old Trafford: very stop and start. Despite being currently injured, the former Leicester man has impressed when putting on the Chelsea shirt getting two goals and four assists in 17 Premier League games, and under Thomas Tuchel, he could propel further forward. Chilwell is expected to go and at 1/5, if he stays injury-free, he'll be on the plane, but it's tough to argue his case over Shaw right now.

Shaw’s other rival for an England shirt is Bukayo Saka. Despite a shaky debut against Wales, the young Arsenal man swiftly got used to his role as a left-wing back as part of Gareth Southgate’s defensive lineup. Saka, who can play in several positions was often seen linking up well with Jack Grealish down the left, striking up a good understanding and partnership. What could hinder Saka though in his bid to start on the left for England, is a lack of experience of both in the position and coming up against elite opposition. The 19-year-old is still learning his trade and has played most of his club career predominantly as a winger and he shouldn't be chosen ahead of Shaw, given how the United man is more defensively stable.

By Harry Charlwood

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