Luke Shaw looks set to become Manchester United’s first signing of the summer, with multiple sources reporting that a £27 million bid has been made to Southampton.
Combined with a wage of £100,000 a week, as reported by The Guardian, making the 18-year-old the most richly rewarded teenager in British football history, it represents a huge financial commitment by United on a player with just two years of top-flight experience under his belt. It is that outlay which is believed to have helped the Manchester club beat off competition from the club Shaw has supported since he was a boy, Chelsea. Yet, while they may be paying over the odds, there is every reason to believe it will prove a shrewd investment.
A left-back has been sought since last summer when David Moyes made a series of failed bids for Leighton Baines. The Everton man, though, never made much sense as a replacement for Patrice Evra. Just three-and-a-half years younger than Evra, and now aged 29, it was hard to see the virtue in committing the close to £20 million it would have required to prize the player away from Goodison Park. That was especially true given that Evra had enjoyed a good 2012-13 season. Perhaps because of how obvious it was that Moyes wasn’t exactly convinced by his ability, the same cannot be said of Evra’s performances this past campaign.
Due to Moyes’s prosaic attacking formula and the reliance on crosses into the box, Evra was actually one of United’s best weapons going forward. However, defensively the 32-year-old was often caught out of position, becoming something of a liability. He none the less remains a strong dressing-room presence, and the signing of a player as young and inexperienced as Shaw means there is the option to keep Evra on board if a deal can be struck over a new contract.
There is no doubt, though, that Shaw has the ability to be the future at left-back for United for potentially the next 15 years. Shaw will go to the World Cup this summer to back-up Baines, but it would be a surprise were he not first-choice by the time the European Championships roll around in two years’ time.
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Shaw already has a solid defensive base on which to build -- in part demonstrated by the fact that he was dribbled past on average 0.6 times per game, according to stats website Who Scored, which was significantly less than Evra -- and he is still young enough to improve considerably in this regard. It is going forward, though, where Shaw excels. Shaw has the pace and ability on the ball to play a key part in a proactive team -- something which United fans expect and which Moyes so noticeably failed to deliver. Shaw had twice as many successful dribbles per game than Evra this past season, and significantly more than Baines.
With a side that has an abundance of No 10’s and a lack of quality wide options, especially on the left, Shaw’s attacking width is likely to prove a valuable weapon to break down opposition. That is true, too, if United do follow through on their reported interest in Marco Reus, a player who for Borussia Dortmund has generally cut inside from the left.
It is not hyperbolic to say that Shaw is one of the finest talents to emerge from England in some time. The inflated price tag is unsurprising given the premium put on English players and the fact that United have to compensate for being unable to offer the prestige of Champions League action.
But that shouldn’t detract from an encouraging initial move to overhaul a squad which has been left to stagnate for far too long. Almost certain to be working under a manager with an almost unrivaled reputation for trusting in and developing young talent, Louis van Gaal, it is a transfer that, if completed, should work out handsomely for both parties.