It’s been a while since England or Manchester United had a left back of genuine quality in their ranks.
You have to go back to the days of Patrice Evra for the last time the Old Trafford club had a player performing at this level in his position, while the Three Lions have struggled for options since Ashley Cole retired.
The likes of Leighton Baines, Kieran Trippier and Ashley Young have all tried over the years to step up to the plate but their form was short-lived and now the England squad finds itself with two very serious options for the role.
One is Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell, who has found himself out of favour since Thomas Tuchel took over in January, and the other is a resurgent Luke Shaw.
The 25-year-old is enjoying the best season of his career so far, seven years after signing for Manchester United for £30m from Southampton to become the most expensive teenage defender in the history of the game. He struggled in his first season before finally coming good in his second before the horrific leg break that has plagued him ever since.
The arrival of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has breathed new life into the defender and now seemingly over his fitness problems that gave him so much grief during the reign of Jose Mourinho, he looks like the player United invested in to be their long-term left back.
He’s shown a fantastic ability to beat players with the ball at his feet as shown with his goal against Manchester City, while he’s also the defender with the most chances created in the Premier League this season.
Defensively he’s improved hugely too, becoming increasingly difficult to beat in a one on one situation while also improving positionally and aerially. He’s become the complete modern full-back, something this United team has been severely missing in more recent years.
You can see a vast difference in the team’s play when he isn’t in the side. The performance in the first leg of their Europa League tie against AC Milan was horrendous and they were arguably lucky to come away with even a draw, considering they were dominated for most of that game.
The poor showing was largely put down to the absence of attacking talent like Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, Edinson Cavani and Donny van de Beek, and Anthony Martial going off injured at half-time, but the absence of Shaw was just as important.
Alex Telles isn’t as athletic as Shaw and has struggled to make the attacking runs that are normally seen on the flank. He also can’t carry the ball in the same way, often opting to cross the ball from a deeper position despite it not really suiting the strengths of the United attackers.
Shaw’s relationship with Rashford has been one of the most fruitful in the division this season and that can only be a good thing for England. Rashford is most likely to start in a left-wing role if fit during the European Championship this summer and with Shaw behind him, it’s highly likely that they would be able to recreate their successful partnership at international level.
It’s probably still too soon to say that Shaw is the long-term answer for both club and country, simply because of his previous fitness issues. But if he can keep this form up over the next 12 months then United will have one of the best left-backs around in their squad and he’ll still have the peak years of his career ahead of him.