Ole Gunnar Solskjær may have realistically scripted his best success story within Manchester United’s roster in the creatively footed Luke Shaw.
No piece on the English left-back would be complete without a reminiscence of just how many ups and downs the youngster has had to go through during his time as a Red Devil. From a prodigious teenager destined to greatness to an injury-stricken senior player subject to plenty of criticism and managerial fancies, Shaw has been put through a lot.
However, a look at how he has fared under Solskjær’s tutelage with specific reference to his sheer brilliance in recent games would indicate that the Norwegian gaffer has done an outstanding job nurturing him.
The most telling indication of Shaw’s insurgent form under the former United player is the simple statistic that he has created the most chances of any full-back in the Premier League this campaign. On the back of those numbers alone, it would not be too far-fetched to christen him to be the finest flankman in England at the given time.
This has come about largely as a result of Solskjær pegging focus on his defensive full-backs executing attacking discipline in addition to their traditional duties at the back. What this has essentially achieved is a siphoning of the tasks that a typical United winger would achieve onto the pacey full-back instead.
In Shaw, there is a clear result of this kind of a player with his sharp crosses and pointed runs creating a fresh dimension of threat. These are beneficial in plenty for the side’s forwards and are also a source of fresh goals on their own with Shaw not hesitating to linger around the box.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka seems to also be taking a page out of the book of the former Southampton man, as evident in his own attacking spurts.
Secondly, Shaw is also keen on delivering consistent performances. During the club’s unprecedented unbeaten run last campaign, it was quite telling that it was his ability to start in every game and deliver the same intensity of performance that kept up the fairly decent record.
Further still, it is important that the man himself is maintaining his fitness levels and keeping up the good form, a feat he has never been able to achieve for this long previously in a troubled career of football at the Theatre of Dreams.
Lastly, Solskjær’s success with Shaw has stemmed from how he has promoted competition for the spot. The acquisition of Alex Telles in the transfer window was an adequate indication of the same. By purchasing the Brazilian, Solskjær was sending Shaw a clear message that complacency would not be encouraged.
This provided the 25-year-old much incentive to perform on a regular basis as the 28-year-old Telles was able to provide competition for the starting spot in a manner that the merely 20-year-old Brandon Williams simply was not.
All in all, the project to rejuvenate an almost withered hope of potential will bear at large for what Solskjær is able to do with United. If the club succeeded at giving the semblance of a title run this season, the likes of Shaw were instrumental to that effort. If they are to do so more often, then similar transformations ought to be undertaken elsewhere on the pitch.