Manchester United are close to securing the £27 million signature of Southampton and England defender Luke Shaw, according to reports in the UK. Shaw, who has been selected as part of Roy Hodgson’s squad for the World Cup finals in Brazil, is understood to be close to agreeing terms with the Old Trafford club.
Shaw appeared to hasten his exit from the south coast yesterday when he it was reported that he was furious with Southampton’s decision to fire fabled academy coaches Jason Dodd and Paul Williams. It has been reported that Shaw told close friends and teammates that he was going to snub his boyhood club Chelsea and head to United.
At just 18-years-of-age and one England cap to his name, Shaw will go to the World Cup very green. Furthermore, now that Ashley Cole has been omitted from the squad – the veteran Chelsea man subsequently quit international football – Shaw will battle it out with Everton’s Leighton Baines for a starting spot in Brazil. Both players are attack-minded and so will provided support when England play down the flanks – something Ashley Cole did with aplomb for many years.
Should United complete the Shaw transfer, it will mark the end of a long hunt to replace the aging Patrice Evra, who is said to be close to leaving the club. Former United boss David Moyes aggressively tracked Baines, who he worked with at Everton, but failed to convince either the club or the player. New boss Louis van Gaal has admitted to giving the United bigwigs a list of transfer targets who he would like to be signed with the £150 million war chest he has been given.
Many have baulked at the circa £27m fee United are prepared to spend on a still relatively unproven 18-year-old. Despite having a distinguished season for the Saints, he has yet to be properly tested at European and international level and also benefited from playing one game a week last season. However, United’s absence from European competition next season – the first time since 1990 – will mean he will not be thrown in at the deep end. Nevertheless, United and Old Trafford present a far bigger stage to the player with a lot more scrutiny.
If all goes according to plan for van Gaal, he and his new assistant Ryan Giggs could have a defense featuring Shaw and Germany international Mats Hummels when United kick-off their new campaign in August. Benfica and Argentina player Ezekiel Garay plus Bayern Munich and Germany man Holger Badstuber could also take their place in a new look back four for the Red Devils.
So while United closes in on the £27m defender Shaw, other clubs around Europe are bracing themselves for big-money bids from United who are desperate to wrestle back the Premier League crown from neighbors Manchester City, and get back into the swing of Champions League football. While those clubs will know United are desperate, they will hold out for as much money as possible. Yet van Gaal is known to be a strict disciplinarian who usually gets what he wants. United know they must deliver, even if it means paying over the odds, if they want to restore established order in the English game.
World Cup Preview is a series providing commentary and analysis of the teams and players participating in this year’s World Cup in Brazil.
Commentary by Robert Shepherd