Manchester United’s unsung creator might be crucial against Everton


Manchester United will be eagerly awaiting news on Luke Shaw who was forced off with an injury in the 35th minute of Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa.

United are next in action at home to Villarreal in the Champions League this coming Wednesday, but it’s not clear whether Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will have 26-year-old back in time for the clash.

If not, he should at least be back for this visit of Everton this weekend, an important fixture for United to get back to winning ways in the Premier League.

The Reds will need a much-improved performance in that game when compared to the one that came against Villa seven days earlier, and Shaw could be key to that. Even if his form across these opening weeks of the campaign has come under some scrutiny.

He has delivered just one league assist across his opening six Premier League appearances, causing some to question his creative efficiency so far.

A glance at his crossing success numbers also paint a fairly unflattering picture, having registered a success rate of just 5.9 per cent from all his combined crosses attempted – that ranks 17th from the 22 left-backs who have featured in four or match league games so far.

The same feeds into a narrative that he’s performing at a below-par level, however, there are important caveats to consider in relation to this.

Beyond the fact that we are so early into the season meaning that Shaw has attempted very few crosses, just 14 in fact, it’s important to consider that crossing is often about swinging the ball into dangerous locations for forwards to attack, rather than aiming the ball directly at a teammate, say as you would when making passes.

This is because players attacking the ball are rarely standing stationary, but instead moving about, trying to shake markers and create space which is often at a premium in the penalty area.

Therefore a cross being successful is often just as much down to the actions of the player receiving the ball as it is for the player attempting the cross. For that reason, there’s a case to be made that it’s unjust to judge players on this particular metric alone.

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This is especially true in the case of Shaw given that contrary to perceptions, he’s actually been a little unlucky to have not registered more goal contributions so far for United.

In terms of key passes – balls leading directly to a shot attempt – his 16 ranks behind only Bruno Fernandes (20) so far at United.

Furthermore, his Expected Assist (xA) total (1.1) is almost identical to Paul Pogba’s (1.3), yet the Frenchman has six more assists to his name thanks to some elite-level finishing from teammates.

It’s been the opposite for Shaw who is arguably lacking another one or two more assists to his tally so far as a result of less efficient finishing from United teammates.

In any event though, the above highlights that the England international remains a key creator for his side and we should probably therefore expect to see an increase in his goal contributions as the season progresses, providing he keeps performing at the level he currently is.

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