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Man Utd's Robertson & Alexander-Arnold? Shaw & Wan-Bissaka finally meeting Solskjaer's expectations

06-Feb-2021, 03:04 pm

Luke Shaw Aaron Wan-Bissaka Andy Robertson Trent Alexander-Arnold Liverpool Manchester United GFX

In the first half of Manchester United’s 9-0 rout of Southampton, the impact of Alex Telles’ arrival at Old Trafford was made abundantly clear.

The 25-year-old Englishman created five chances against the Saints– his best-ever haul in a Premier League match– and with his two assists, for Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Edinson Cavani, he matched his tally for his previous 45 league appearances combined.

Shaw, then, is in the best form of his career. As well as defending solidly, he is also, more importantly, excelling going forward, which will be of particular satisfaction to Solskjaer, who has been working closely with the left-back on his offensive game.

Tuesday's game was no flash in the pan either. Shaw has alreadycreated 35 chances this season, eclipsing his previous best totalof 33 for the 2018-19 campaign–and United still have 16 Premier League games to play.

He is also averaging a cross every 29 minutes. Last season, it was one every52 minutes. The season before that? One every 66 minutes.

Shaw is clearly reapingthe rewards of the extra effort he is putting in on the training ground andit's clear that the signing of Telles last summer was a motivating factor.

The former Southampton ace knewthat if he was to hold on to his starting spot, he would have to improve his attacking game.

“I think that Luke is now consistently producing what a modernfull-back should be doing,” Solskjaer told reporters when asked about Shaw's impressive statistics in the final third.

Of course, he's not the only full-back at Old Trafford that is becoming a better all-round player this season.

There have never been any doubts about Wan-Bissaka's commitment to his defensive game and he once again tops the charts for tackles won in the Premier League this season, with 39.

The 23-year-old had to improve going forward, as Solskjaer warned last term.

“We always knew that Aaron was going to be hard to beat," Solskjaer said last season. "He's one of the best one-versus-one defenders I've ever seen, but he used to be a winger when he was younger, so he's got it in him to provide more assists.

“The way we want to play, werely on the full-backs getting forward and Aaron'sgetting better on the ball; he doesn't give the ball away a lot.

"But when you play at full-back for Manchester United, you do have to provide assists."

Even since Solskjaer succeeded Jose Mourinho at the helm just over two years ago,he has been trying to makehis defendersmore comfortable playing the ball out from the back and usingthe full-backs to addwidth to his team'sattacking play – which is something that Wan-Bissaka had not been used to while playing for Crystal Palace.

In his final season at Selhurst Park, in2018-19, he was creating a chance, on average, every223 minutes.This season, on top of his two goals and one assist, he is creating a chance every 128 minutes.

In addition, his average number of touches is up to 77 from 63 and whereas he managed zero touches in the opposition box during the 2017-18season, now his average is 1.1 per game.

"That's why I came to this club," he said of his impressive development in an interview with United's official website."This club is capable of helping me with that. I want to become a better player every year.

"I don't really focus on statistics at the timebut, at the end of the season, I look back and see if it's better than the previous season, and the season before that."

Solskjaer and his staff have been impressed with the huge strides forward Wan-Bissaka is now takingand games like Southampton showcased the fruits of his labour, ashe earned the fans’ man of the match award for his efforts.

Of course, there is still room for improvement. The barnstorming runs of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson down the right and left flanks at Anfieldhelped transformJurgen Klopp’s Liverpool into title winners, and those two remain the benchmark for allattacking full-backs in the Premier League.

For example, Robertson has made 40 successful crosses this season, and Alexander-Arnold 28. Wan-Bissaka has pulled off just four.

Those numbers explain why United are considering bringing in another right-back this summer to compete with the former England Under-21 international for a starting spot.

Kieran Trippier has been previouslyconsidered, whileMax Aarons is still on the club’s radar. And that's hardly surprising, given the success Solskjaer has had at left-back by putting pressure on Shawwith the acquisition of Telles.

“I think it’s a sign of a Man United player when you takeon the challenge of competition because if you can’t deal with competition, you’re at the wrong place,” the Norwegiansaid.

“Nobody is guaranteed a place in the team here. You’ve got to perform to be part of the success of Man United and I’ve been part of that competition myself,with strikers coming in. You’ve just got to meetthe challenge head on.

“I’ve really enjoyed the response I’ve had from players like Luke (Shaw) and David (de Gea) but we've continued to sign players, like Donny (van de Beek) and Amad (Diallo), becausethat’s also kicked some of the other players up the backside tomake sure they keep performing.”

For now, Shaw should be Wan-Bissaka’s source of inspiration. The threat of new arrivals should provethe extra shove he needs to take his game to the next level.

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