Manchester United’s Europa League win over Partizan Belgrade wasn’t pretty. If it wasn’t for some excellent goalkeeping from Sergio Romero, and some luck with the woodwork, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would still be waiting for a first win on the road since March.
Yet a win is a win. And, given the Red Devils’ recent plight, they’ll sure take it. Anthony Martial’s penalty was enough to give them three points and boost their chances of making the knockout stages of the competition.
And while it was a night where Manchester United still only scored one goal, still looked turgid in all areas and still attacked at a snail’s pace, there was another positive.
It came in the form of the impressive Brandon Williams.
The 19-year-old was excellent, earning the penalty with a surging run into the box. He was equally good at the back, fronting up in the cauldron of the Partizan Stadium.
Whisper it, but Williams may be the solution to the left-back issues United have had ever since Patrice Evra quit for Juventus back in the summer of 2014.
Left-back has been an issue during that time. Evra was spectacular, brilliant on the attack and equally as good when it came to defensive duties.
The Frenchman’s fine performances helped United win five Premier League titles during his time at Old Trafford, as well as the Champions League in 2008.
Yet nobody has been able to establish themselves as the true heir to the 38-year-old.
United thought Luke Shaw would be that player. But the England international has never quite lived up to expectations throughout his time at the club.
A £30million signing from Southampton, Ed Woodward managed to lure him to the club in 2014 despite the player’s favourite club, Chelsea, pushing hard to sign him at the time.
But Shaw’s time at United has been a story of injury, inconsistency and other problems.
When he first signed, Louis van Gaal was appalled by his physical condition. In the Dutchman’s eyes, he was unfit.
“He needs to be fit and is not very fit and fit enough to do what I want. He needs to train individually until he is fit,” he said at the time.
Shaw took a year to find his feet but started the 2015/2016 campaign in blistering form as United got their season under Van Gaal off to a flier.
However, a horrific injury sustained at PSV Eindhoven has stunted his development. It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that he hasn’t been the same since.
Jose Mourinho knew it, of course. United fans were often quick to accuse the Portuguese of bullying Shaw but he wasn’t. He wanted the best from his left-back and did everything to try and get it.
In Mourinho’s first two seasons, Shaw was regularly overlooked. He started neither the Europa League or EFL Cup final victories in 2017, with Matteo Darmian and Marcos Rojo getting the nod instead.
Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the England international has been a regular.