|Source: The Manchester Evening News|
A debate that has raged throughout the season for Manchester United is that of who should be the starting left back? At the beginning of the season, everyone’s answer was Luke Shaw on the back of a good season of football last season. However, with an injury to Luke Shaw earlier on in the season gave an opportunity for the young academy prospect, Brandon Williams to make his mark, which many argue he has. Since this, then there has been a debate by fans as to who should start for United and who should be the backup.
When Luke Shaw signed for Manchester United for £30 million, a then world record transfer fee for a teenager, he was one of the most promising teenage talents in the world. However, now he is 24 and has massively stagnated since his promising teenage years. So, is it time for a change at left back?
This season in 18 appearances Luke Shaw averages 1 tackle per game, 0.9 interceptions per game and 0.3 blocks a game (whoscored.com). This shows that he is a competent defender, though not an excellent one. In terms of his attacking play Luke Shaw only has one goal involvement this season, he also has around 1 key pass a game and attempts 0.7 dribbles per game (whoscored.com). This shows that though he likes to attack, he doesn’t really have much of an impact on the game in attacking areas.
On the other hand of the debate is recently promoted academy player Brandon Williams. Williams was an excellent left and right back in the youth team for Manchester United and at 19, has risen to a first team squad member this season. Williams seems to be winning the debate about him being a starting left back with many of the fans, due to his ties with the club and his is work ethic, especially in comparison to Luke Shaw whose work ethic has been questioned many times. Williams has made 19 appearances for Manchester United this season in that time he has contributed to, again only the one goal which isn’t amazing for a modern-day fullback but he also has intelligent match play and is able to create space which has also contributed to several goals of the season.
Williams averages 1.3 tackles, 1.1 interceptions and 0.3 blocks per game (whoscored.com), these stats are higher than Luke Shaw showing that Brandon Williams makes a better defensive contribution to the team when he is playing. In terms of his attacking play, he makes 0.7 key passes per game and performs 1.1 dribbles (whoscored.com). This shows us that he likes to get forward on the wings though his output could be improved. This is likely down to his dominant foot being on the inside and is more likely to cut a ball back than put a cross in the box.
To conclude, though both Shaw and Williams have their strengths and weaknesses, in my opinion, the starting left back for the rest of the season should be Brandon Williams. Williams is the obvious choice when looking at the effort put in on the pitch and the ability to get up and down the page helping the team but defensively and offensively. I do believe however, that the left back position could be an option to strengthen in the summer window if the attacking output of Williams doesn’t improve. This is because a modern-day fullback needs to have the ability to contribute to both goals and assists for the team, and if we want to challenge for the top for next season then we need more creativity and goals in the team even from left back.