Irwin: We don't need to worry about full-backs!
Treble-winner Denis Irwin says Manchester United can relax when it comes to the full-back positions, after noting the form and progress of Luke Shaw and Diogo Dalot at international level.
Irwin racked up a mammoth 529 appearances in both left and right-back positions during a 12-year career in M16, and has been watching on with pride as Shaw has nailed down the left-sided spot he used to call his own.
Following his long-awaited return to the England squad in March, Shaw was instrumental in the Three Lions' milestone 2-0 victory over Germany at Euro 2020, and Den says it's come as no surprise, given his superb form for United during the last 18 months or so.
“He's been brilliant as we've seen this season,” purred the seven-time Premier League winner. “I think he was in with Bruno [Fernandes] for Player of the Year. Bruno got it, as you would expect with the contribution he made, but I think Luke has had a fantastic year and has brought that confidence into the Euros.
“I know he didn't play in the first game [against Croatia], but he had a huge impact the other night [against Germany], particularly in the second half where he was involved in the two goals.
“Him and Harry [Maguire] have done really, really well. England have not conceded a goal yet, the keeper looks strong, and I thought the other night, besides the [Thomas] Muller chance, there weren't many chances given up. And they've looked very solid, England, and Luke and Harry have been a big part of that.”
Irwin believes the way Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has set up his United squad has played a big part in Shaw's wonderful form.
“It's been well documented, his ups and down at United,” explained the Irishman. “The injuries he had and the way he's had to come back from that.
“The challenges he had in the full-back department, of Brandon [Williams] coming in and then [Alex] Telles coming and challenging him, which spurred him on. But you can see he's playing with bagfuls of confidence – he's great going forward. And it's great to see the two of them [Maguire and Shaw] doing very well.”
Irwin also reserved praise for Diogo Dalot, who has had an impressive summer with Portugal – reaching the final of the Under-21 European Championship – before being called up to his country's senior squad at Euro 2020, in place of the injured Joao Cancelo.
Dalot made his senior international debut for the Selecao in their 2-2 draw with France in the group stage, and Irwin says it could be the encouragement he needs to really challenge Aaron Wan-Bissaka for a first-team spot when he returns to Manchester.
“It's a good bit of experience for him. He's still a young lad, and obviously was playing at AC Milan last year in a really good league, so that will give him great experience as well. He needs to come back and challenge for that full-back position, because Aaron's made that position his own. So it's good that there's competition there. He looks strong, he looks fit. He needs a run of games and a run of weeks without injury problems to keep going. But he's done brilliantly for Portugal so that's good to see.
“I don't think we need to worry about full-back positions at the moment! With Luke playing so well and Diogo coming back... I don't know what plans Ole has got, but [we have] Brandon – who had a quieter year last year after his breakthrough year – and Alex Telles on hand as well. We're very strong in that position.”