Luke Shaw finally proves his worth at Manchester United after shaky start

United defender has emerged from a difficult period with his pride intact

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The Independent Online

There have been plenty of times in the past few months when Luke Shaw has not wanted to stop to dissect publicly the game just ended, in what he admits has been a personal “fight” to acclimatise to Manchester United, but there was a different look on his face late on Sunday.

It was not just the proof that United are capable of a theatrical finish to a game once again, but that Shaw had managed to provide some evidence of why he is worth his wages, in front of Jose Mourinho. The Chelsea manager had sneered at Shaw in public and criticised his apparent wage demands after he had chosen Old Trafford above Stamford Bridge as his next destination in football in the summer, when leaving Southampton for £27m.

Shaw was keen to put the whole Chelsea chapter – he was a boyhood fan and on their books as a boy – behind him. “No, no, no,” he said to the idea that Sunday’s 1-1 Premier League draw was the best result for his Chelsea-supporting father. “My dad is a United fan now. He’s not Chelsea any more. He is a United fan now and he won’t be too happy because he wanted us to win really badly.”

Shaw’s combination with Adnan Januzaj on the left wing was one of the key elements of United’s strong first-half showing against Chelsea and he looked robust defensively. There were fewer of the unforced defensive errors which have become a United tendency, too, though 5ft 8in Rafael da Silva failing to mark 6ft 2in Didier Drogba when he headed home Chelsea’s opener looked like one of them.

 

The Independent and MUTV analyst Danny Higginbotham said United appeared to have been very well drilled in set pieces against the aerial threat of Gary Cahill, John Terry, Nemanja Matic and Branislav Ivanovic, with certain players designated to mark each one of those Chelsea men. But with no expectation that Drogba would start, Rafael appeared to have been assigned him by default. Higginbotham wrote of the need for United to discover defensive “leadership” in Saturday’s Independent. That quality was required to identify the need for someone other than Rafael to pick up Drogba. “It is about on-pitch management,” Higginbotham said. “The manager cannot be responsible for everything.”

With each defender picking up one of Chelsea’s most threatening players, United striker Robin van Persie was not present in his usual position, in the space beside the near post awaiting the corner, from where Drogba struck.

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Luke Shaw put in his best performance for United against Chelsea

“Van Persie has done that job on numerous occasions this season,” Higginbotham said. “If the corner goes over his head he back-tracks and goes to the post. If he had been there, he would have got to that ball before Drogba, or Drogba would at least not have been given a free header.

“Instead, he was halfway off it [the near post] when the header came in."

The United midfielder Marouane Fellaini was able to deal with Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas, whose own influence on the game was reduced by the absence of striker Diego Costa. “Without Costa’s pace, United were able to ply a higher line earlier in the game and give Fabregas less time on the ball,” Higginbotham said.

Shaw insisted United were not out of title contention, despite the 10-point gulf between them and leaders Chelsea. “It has been a fight but we talk in the dressing room and at training and we know we have still got the best to come,” he said. “I don’t think we are playing our best, but when we are all on form I think we are going to be a scary team to face.”

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