Move over Lindelof: Ten Hag must unleash Man Utd’s “fabulous” £150k-p/w rock v Forest

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Manchester United is getting ready to face relegation-threatened Nottingham Forest away from Old Trafford later today. The Red Devils enter the game following Thursday’s strange and expensive 2-2 draw with Sevilla in the Europa League.

After appearing to be in control heading into the final minutes of that first-leg quarterfinal match, an absurd late capitulation saw the Andalusian team net twice to set up an intriguing match in Seville the following week. Erik ten Hag’s team also suffered the loss of Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez, their first-choice center-back duo, to injury.

The latter player, who suffered a metatarsal injury late against the La Liga team, will not play again this season, while the former is only expected to miss a few weeks. As a result, the top-four contenders will be forced to do without a player who has been a “absolute monster” this season, in the words of teammate Luke Shaw.

As a result of the absence of that dynamic duo, club captain Harry Maguire will probably take over at right-sided center back. The 30-year-old, who recently scored an unfortunate own goal, appeared to be a “different” player in the victory over Everton last weekend, according to his manager.

It is still unclear who will team up with the England international, despite Victor Lindelof being the obvious choice. There would undoubtedly be a real advantage to using the aforementioned Shaw in the center of defense once more, as the 27-year-old is in contention to play at the City Ground following his recent injury layoff.

Will Luke Shaw face Forest from the start?

Although by trade a left-back, the former Southampton star has already demonstrated this season that he can be a more than capable understudy to Martinez, ahead of Lindelof, with Ten Hag having previously stated his preference for a left-footed option in that position:

“In possession, you have better angles because left-footers are better oriented on the left side.”

Ironically, it was during the rematch against Forest in December that the former Ajax manager first tested Shaw in that improvised position. The £150,000-per-week player displayed composure in that new role and, in the words of Manchester Evening News journalist Samuel Luckhurst, “did not look out of place.”

The 29-cap threat, who also played alongside Varane in Wolverhampton Wanderers’ victory away from home a few days later, was subsequently praised as “fabulous” by his manager. He had previously filled in for Martinez in the draw against Barcelona at Camp Nou and the victory over Manchester United in January.

According to 90 minutes’ Grey Whitebloom, the 6 foot 1 rock did’remarkably well’ to counteract Erling Haaland’s effect in the latter’s 2-1 victory. This served as more proof that Ten Hag can rely on the Kingston-born gem to thrive in that possibly strange position.

Therefore, in light of United’s growing injury crisis, the returning Shaw will once more be forced to play elsewhere than his customary full-back position against Steve Cooper’s team.

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