Ole Gunnar Solskjaer stole the show last night at the Ethiad stadium as his counter-attacking tactics ended Manchester City’s 21-game winning run. City will still undoubtedly go on to win the Premier League title but Solskjaer is finding his way of doing things and his players are repaying the faith he has shown them.
When those closest to Manchester United sit down at the end of this season to choose their club’s Player of the Year, the award will undoubtedly go to Bruno Fernandes. The man from Portugal has been at the centre of everything United have done well this season and he deserves all the praise he gets.
Yet, in recent weeks, it is not Fernandes that is United’s most in form player. That accolade must go to Luke Shaw. The full-back has been first choice for much of the season, keeping summer signing Alex Telles on the bench, and has consistently delivered the goods helping to keep eight Premier League clean sheets, contributing a season’s best five assists and against Man City last night, he even got on the score sheet.
Career Ending Injury
Shaw has endured many difficult seasons at United since his World Record Transfer Fee (for a teenager) from Southampton in 2014. A horrific double leg break in September 2015 nearly finished his career prematurely. Even more devastating than finishing his career, Shaw confided in 2018 that he nearly lost the limb completely after post-surgery blood clots caused complications.
Upon his return, Shaw was not only struggling for confidence, as you would expect of any player who had been through his type of injury amount of time out, but he was also being lambasted by hen manager Jose Mourinho on what felt like, a weekly basis.
“He [Shaw] was in front of me and I was making every decision for him. He has to change his football brain… he cannot keep using my brain!”
Many players with less internal self-belief than Shaw would have walked away from the challenge. The pressures of playing at a club like Manchester United can make the very best underperform but add to that injury and public criticism from your manager, and the turnaround in Shaw’s career is incredible. It’s difficult not to praise him enough.
Whilst Shaw has shown incredible resilience and desire, some of the credit must rest with Solskjaer and his backroom team. Whilst we won’t know exactly what has gone on behind the scenes, it is fair to assume that he has had the support and guidance from someone who understands what it means to play for Manchester United.
Coaches at all levels can learn from Luke Shaw’s story. It can take time for a player to adjust to new surroundings and just as long to recover mentally from long-term injury. We need to show players that we care about them, that they are more than just a pawn in a system and that they matter as people. We need to remember why they joined the team, what skills we recognised when we first saw them and then choose the right approach at the right time. Sometimes players do need a kick in the right direction. Sometimes they need an arm around their shoulder. But at all times, they need to be shown respect, be valued and acknowledged as the human being they are.
It has been two-and-a-half years since Shaw played for England but with three games just around the corner, the United man must be in Gareth Southgate’s thoughts. He’ll face competition from Chlesea’s Ben Chilwell, West Ham’s Aaron Cresswell and the promising Arsenal youngster, Bukayo Saka.
Counter Attacking Session Plan
This 90-minute session is suitable for u13 to Adult in the 11v11 game. Split into three parts, the session teaches Tactical, Technical, Physical, Psychological & Social components to be successful at creating goal-scoring opportunities as quickly as possible after winning possession.