Erik ten Hag believes Luke Shaw has turned into one of Manchester United’s leaders and said the England left-back has the physical, tactical and technical skills to excel in his new role as a central defender.
The United manager accepted he took a major decision when selecting Shaw as a centre-back against the prolific Erling Haaland in the Manchester derby but praised him for his performance in his side’s victory.
It was a far cry from the start of the season when Shaw was dropped for summer signing Tyrell Malacia after the 4-0 defeat to Brentford but Ten Hag was impressed with the defender’s candid reaction when he admitted he was playing poorly.
“I like that he’s so honest,” he said. “After the second game he didn’t play and said: ‘I fully understand, my performance is not right’. But from the first day in training at pre-season he was working really hard and you can see when he has the right approach. He’s a top player. I don’t mean only as a team player; he’s a leader.
“He’s showed a lot of leadership capacities – he’s the example at this moment – and with his skills and with his physical power he brings a lot to the team. But now also with his mentality. He’s an example of how to win big games. I’m really happy with his development. I think it’s been huge either at centre-half or left full-back, he’s a great player and a great personality for the dressing room.”
Haaland had scored a hat-trick against United at the Etihad Stadium but was kept quieter in the rematch at Old Trafford after Ten Hag’s gamble of picking Shaw worked.
“It is a big decision,” he accepted. “But I think when you analyse the profile of Haaland and the combination with De Bruyne it was also the right decision because Luke has the physical power to compete with them and also has the tactical view to make the right decision and technical skills to play in that position.
“So I think [against City] it matched really well but I think in other games he can contribute even more on the left in the wide positions so it’s a tactical choice and we can see from game to game what we need. And I think we have more players in our squad who have the capacity to be multi-functional and we can use that as a weapon in games.”