Shaw's adaptability admired by former Red

Wednesday 28 June 2023 16:30

Former Manchester United defender Wes Brown says he appreciates Luke Shaw's ability to seamlessly switch to the centre of defence.

Like his fellow England international, Wes was also capable of operating at a high level in both full-back and centre-half positions, and he realises such flexibility is a real asset in Erik ten Hag's system.

Shaw's precise passing and tactical discipline allowed him to shine at the heart of the back four, when called upon in that role, particularly in the absence of Lisandro Martinez. It means he can be relied upon as cover there, in addition to being one of the best left-sided defenders in Europe.

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Brown played the majority of his successful career in the middle but was at right-back when helping United win the Champions League final in 2008, even providing the assist for Cristiano Ronaldo's goal against Chelsea.

Sir Alex Ferguson would sometimes be forced to play people out of position at centre-back and Wes acknowledged Michael Carrick did this to good effect, on occasion, although he feels Luke's defensive mindset helps him remain fully focused on the job in hand over 90 minutes.

“We know him as an excellent left-back but he's been unbelievable [at centre-back],” Brown told us recently.

“As a full-back, you’d probably only play there a few times until the other defenders all come back [from injury].

“But because Luke has played so well, he’s been, pretty much, the next-choice centre-back.

“I’m not sure if he played there as a kid, but he just seems to read the game very well. He’s good in the air, his positioning is good and getting better after a few games.”

Brown added: “Normally it would be a midfielder who would fill in there [at centre-back]. I always remember Carras [Michael Carrick] would come back in the middle and he’d be excellent. Then a few times, he’d run forward and go into his midfield role and you’d be shouting: ‘Carras, get back here!'

“But Luke doesn’t seem to do that. Obviously, he’s got a defensive-like mindset and, ultimately, it’s about positional play.

“You know he reads the ball so well, he’s winning balls even before the striker gets a touch. So he’s been absolutely excellent and that’s why the gaffer has kept him in. It’s as simple as that and he probably wasn’t even thinking of doing that. But when you do that well, you know that’s an option.”