Within hours of the conclusion of the 2013/14 season, rumours around Luke Shaw’s future were aplenty. Manchester United have allegedly agreed a £27 million deal for the Saints man, who has been named in Roy Hodgson’s 2014 World Cup squad.
The 18 year old full-back has always shown promise during his time at Southampton and has more than demonstrated his ability to live up to the hype surrounding him. With Roy Hodgson opting to not take the experienced Ashley Cole to Brazil this summer, the pressure will never be on Luke Shaw more than it will be during this tournament.
Coming off the back of their worst league position since the start of the Premier League, United are reportedly looking at the Southampton wonderkid to replace Patrice Evra admist reports he will be leaving at the end of the season.
But how will Shaw fit into the United side should Patrice Evra leave the Red Devils?
Defensively, Luke Shaw holds the best tackle success rate in the Premier League for the left-back position (of those who played at least 1700 minutes over the course of the season) by achieving a 84.72% success rate compared to Evra’s 68.35%. Shaw made 307 50-50 tackles this season, 70 more than Evra, suggesting the 18 year old is not afraid to get himself stuck in against opponents.
Evra has the upper hand on interceptions made during the season with Shaw making 40 to the Frenchman’s 56 but this could be put down to Southampton’s high defensive line and their way of building from the back instead of breaking quickly on the counter.
Shaw compliments Southampton’s passing style and it is not surprising to see how his passing stats look for the season. A total of 1405 passes with a 79% pass rate for the season, Shaw shows he is more than capable of creating from the back and is comfortable playing the ball out of his own half. Of those passes, 43% were passed into the centre, a stat United will be pleased to see with their wide array of talent through the centre.
Evra’s strength was always his ability to maraud down the wing and deliver a cross, and in Luke Shaw United may have found an ideal replacement. With 141 crosses this season compared to Evra’s 129, the Southampton left back will be sure to create problems down the wing. Coupled with his crossing stats, Shaw’s dribbling stats are marginally better than Evra’s with the Manchester United player succeeding dribbles 54% of the time compared to Shaw’s 57%. The stats reflect what Shaw has shown over the last few seasons at Southampton; that he is a confident player who has not only the bravado to take on a player but also the ability to do so.
At first glance, Shaw’s possession stats may not look good. 593 times he lost possession this season averaging a loss every 5 minutes. Compared to Evra’s 427 losses every 7 minutes, Shaw looks to be prone to error. However, Shaw lacks the experience of Evra and has that young arrogance about him that is both his trump card and his downfall. Despite being dispossessed 48 times, Shaw has managed to get away without making a defensive error this season which could be more down to his teams pressing ability to cut down a move before it materialises than individual talent.
What is promising for United is where the majority of Shaw’s possession is won. Shaw wins possession every 17 minutes for Southampton and the majority of those have come in the defensive third – vital to starting the counter attacks Manchester United will be looking to start.
Southampton have done an incredible job with their youngsters and will do well to hold onto the core of their team in the transfer window, with big clubs keeping an eye on Adam Lallana, Jay Rodriguez and Luke Shaw. With Saints looking to offload some of their transfer debt this summer and fund their new training ground, Mauricio Pochettino would be a brave man to turn away the vast amount of money these players are sure to attract.
A stumbling block for Shaw may be the lack of permanent manager yet to be appointed at Manchester United. Louis van Gaal has a proven record with youngsters and Shaw certainly plays into his philosophy of playing out from the back and having defenders with good passing ability. Under Louis van Gaal, Shaw could develop into a very good full-back like Gregory van der Wiel at PSG.
Overall, Shaw looks to be a well worthy replacement should Patrice Evra leave Manchester United during the summer. The problem for Shaw and United could be how the youngster handles the pressure of filling such big boots. Wilfred Zaha shrunk and underperformed during his short time at Manchester United and if Shaw were to do the same, the proposed £27 million transfer fee would be a difficult figure to swallow.