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Jun 27, 2014

A Shaw thing for Manchester United

The photo that came with the press release said it all. Manchester United's new £27 million left back was put in a red club top and told to stand next to a picture of the Premier League trophy. United are not champions right now, but they will be going for it next season. Shaw's signing, and that of Ander Herrera earlier in the week, is a statement of intent.

- Okwonga: Midfield rebuild begins with Herrera
- Duerden: Kagawa struggling to shine
- Report: Shaw signs for Man United

After more than a year of frustration, United are starting to get their act together in the transfer market. Within a few days, they have signed two quality players in positions where the squad needs strengthening. It sounds like straightforward stuff. It should do.

The signing of Shaw is a particular boon, as it looked like the deal could fall through a fortnight ago. Under the stewardship of Ed Woodward, United fans had become accustomed to the routine of being linked with a player, watching his value and wages rise and then seeing that he hadn't signed for the club.

When Ronald Koeman was appointed manager at Southampton recently, the Shaw deal was said to be on shaky ground. Word from the defender's camp was that he was "considering his options". No doubt that included a couple of chats with Wayne Rooney, Phil Jones et al, at team England's camp in Brazil. And nobody could have missed the bludgeoning of Spain by new United boss Louis van Gaal's Netherlands.

Shaw impressed last season for Southampton and was one of the few bright sparks during England's 0-0 draw with Costa Rica earlier in the week. He lined up in that game alongside United players Jones and Chris Smalling. Those three, along with Rafael da Silva, must surely constitute the future of Manchester United's back line.

Most expect Luke Shaw to fit in seamlessly at Manchester United.
Most expect Luke Shaw to fit in seamlessly at Manchester United.

Shaw's position on the left-hand side of defence is currently occupied by Patrice Evra, a man who enthralls and infuriates in equal measure. he has been a soldier for United for eight years now, but he is more than a little creaky when it comes to the defending sections of his job.

Nonetheless, Evra is now one of the most experienced members of United's squad, and his knowledge of the course is a great help to his younger colleagues. With Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic gone, Evra is the last United defender to have won a Champions League title that is still at the club.

Alexander Buttner was purchased by Sir Alex Ferguson to deputise for the Frenchman but has departed United, fearful of the incoming manager. Buttner whined last week about not being picked by Van Gaal for the Dutch national team. Since then he has departed for Moscow, one of the few European cities to have worse weather than Manchester.

The fullback is one of the most tactically crucial positions in the modern game. Defensive excellence now comes as a baseline and players' ability to attack from deep is what distinguishes the good from the world class. At 18 years of age, Shaw shows nascent potential, but he will need the guidance offered by Van Gaal's team and there is no one better at showing him how to steal into dangerous positions than Evra. The United man's thunderbolt against Bayern Munich was one of the highlights of last season, and he even scored two headers the year before. Not bad for a guy who is five-foot, six-inches.

United's new manager Van Gaal has already deployed two different formations in the Netherlands' three World Cup games, and it is clear he requires flexibility and dynamism from his charges. Shaw and Herrera fit that bill.

United have managed to spend sixty million pounds in a week while their manager is otherwise engaged. With the rumoured transfer kitty at the end of last season said to be in the region of £150 million, fans can probably expect more signings still. The money isn't the issue though; it is the quality that counts. This week, it looks like they've got it right.

Follow Mark on www.twitter.com/markjpayne