The importance of Luke Shaw’s presence at left-back in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s winning Manchester United formula is finally being appreciated in his absence.
Shaw has missed the last three games with a swollen ankle but Solskjaer will desperately hoping he is available on Sunday as United need to avoid defeat at Leicester City to guarantee a Champions League spot.
Solskjaer used Brandon Williams in Shaw’s place this evening, with Timothy Fosu-Mensah getting a second consecutive league start ahead of the rested Aaron Wan-Bissaka at right-back.
Williams performed considerably better than he did against Chelsea at Wembley, but couldn’t influence the attack despite being afforded plenty of room by the West Ham defence.
The teenager is too often content to cut inside and find the easy pass, instead of running directly at his opposite number or reaching the byline.
Shaw, meanwhile, has developed an excellent understanding with Marcus Rashford on the left-flank. Rashford loves to drop deep and feed Shaw who isn’t afraid to overlap the inside forward.
That understanding has not yet been formed with Williams and there was a lack of coherence as a result in United’s play as they became far too predictable against a reticent West Ham approach.
Shaw is maligned by some of the fanbase for his low assist tally for the Reds, but his key influence in United’s pattern of play is being discovered in his absence.
The 25-year-old is also often flawless defensively and perhaps could have kept the threat of the dangerous Bowen to a minimum.
Williams was hardly at fault for United dropping points at Old Trafford this evening but Shaw established himself as one of the most important players when missing just one of the 19-game unbeaten run.
Shaw’s role has become imperative to Solskjaer’s system and United would be significantly boosted by his return against Leicester.