Why Solskjaer has full-backs on his mind

After Diogo Dalot and Luke Shaw returned to training this week, Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer suddenly has a wealth of options available to him in the full-back positions.

The pair were pictured training on Wednesday morning, alongside fellow defensive wide men Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Ashley Young and Brandon Williams.

Club legend Denis Irwin feels that is a huge positive as the Reds prepares to tackle 11 fixtures across all competitions between now and the end of 2019, beginning with Sunday’s trip to Sheffield United. 

While that visit to Bramall Lane may come too soon for the duo, after their recent injury lay-offs, upcoming cup ties against Astana and Colchester United could provide more realistic opportunities to play. 

Irwin believes the return of 2018/19 Player of the Year, Shaw, is a particular boost, after he started this season's opening three fixtures.

“He is quick and really good at attacking,” says the decorated Irishman, while assessing Shaw’s best qualities. “It is a real shame that he got injured. He has only played three games this season so it will be great to have him back, because he is strong and he is getting a bit of experience now.”

Expert analysis: Irwin rates the full-backsVideo

Quizzed on the mental strength that Shaw has developed throughout his Old Trafford career, Irwin continues:
“As a footballer, injuries are part of parcel of your career, but to get so many in such a short time is unfortunate, especially when he had a really good pre-season. 

“To get through three games this season and to then get injured was a real blow. After the broken leg he had in Holland, he had to be mentally strong to come back from that. As a footballer, you need to be physically strong and mentally strong as well. Injuries can certainly play a part in that and, I tell you what, he has bounced back really well before and it will be great to have him back again.”
Like Shaw, Dalot has only made three appearances this season and his last outing was against Newcastle United back on 6 October. The young Portuguese defender has endured an unfortunate run of injuries since joining the club in 2018, yet Irwin sees plenty of potential in his game. 

“We have not seen an awful lot of him, unfortunately, because of the injuries,”
says Denis.
“He signed and was injured so we didn't see him for two or three months. He has not really had a run of games that would get him up to speed. But he has great potential and particularly going forward, because he puts in a fantastic cross. He looks a strong boy as well. 

“He is only young and has still got a lot to learn. It would be great to see him get a clean run, a few months without an injury, to give him that chance to challenge, not just Aaron Wan-Bissaka but also playing on the right wing. When we have played with three at the back, it suits him to play in that wing-back role. Attacking is his forte and putting in quality crosses is probably his biggest asset.”
As one of the greatest full-backs in United history, Irwin is perfectly placed to assess our current crop and the former Republic of Ireland international admits he is impressed by young Brandon Williams.

“He has done extremely well, I have got to say that,”
states Denis.
“I have seen him in the Under-23s before. He wasn't part of the pre-season when we had five or six young lads who came with us, and then he just bounced onto the scene. You only get through sometimes because of injuries, to Luke in this instance, and the suspension of Ashley has also helped him.
Denis Irwin on Brandon Williams says

“He is right-footed and there is nothing wrong with a right-footed left-back, so he has been a breath of fresh air and a good challenge to the likes of Luke and Ashley.”

“But I have got to say, in the few games he has played, he has not looked out of place and he has probably been our best player in most of those appearances. He is great going forward, is not afraid to overlap at any opportunity - as a modern-day full-back should do - and he is very comfortable on the ball as well. He is right footed and there is nothing wrong with a right-footed left-back, so he has been a breath of fresh air and a good challenge to the likes of Luke and Ashley.”

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