According to reports this week, United are ‘preparing’ a January ‘swoop’ for Saints youngster Luke Shaw who is regarded as one of the brightest prospects of his generation for both club and country.
The 18-year-old from Surrey joined Southampton as an 8-year-old and worked his way up through the youth and reserve ranks to become on of their standout first-team performers last season – his debut term in the Premier League.
His impressive displays for the Saints earned him interest from Arsenal last January – the Gunners haven’t been the only top English team to exploit Southampton’s exceptional youth academy that boasts the like of Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and the world’s most expensive footballer in history Gareth Bale.
Meanwhile, Manchester United and new manager David Moyes had their gaze firmly fixed on the boss’ former club Everton where 28-year-old Leighton Baines has his finest season in a blue shirt last term.
The left-sided defender had played second fiddle to Chelsea’s Ashley Cole in the England squad for the best part of his career but his impressive displays have now earned him his rightful place in Roy Hodgson’s team – the Toffees star made 13 international appearances across 2012 and 2013 after making just 6 in total previously in his career.
Baines scored 8 goals and made 11 assists for Everton last season but his work rate and technical quality make him one of the most dangerous players in the league coming in off the flank.
United ended up signing his Belgian teammate for £28 million on deadline day this summer after failing in the majority of their transfer pursuits this summer. They made at least three different bids for Baines, between £8 million and £12 million but, for all their endeavors, the Merseysiders held firm on their stance that he was not for sale.
On deadline day United turned their attention to Real Madrid fullback Fabio Coentrao but, again, failed to agree a fee with the Spaniards for his transfer and now, after all that, they turn their attention to Luke Shaw who, in my estimation, should have been the player they looked at first.
Why? Leighton Baines is at the peak of his powers now but he’s 28 and likely only has four or five years left at the highest level. Coentrao is 25 and, whilst he’s one of the finest players in his position on the continent, he would need time to adapt to the English game and there have been questions raised over his defensive capabilities in Spain.
Meanwhile, Luke Shaw has the potential to be as good as both of them – his talent and ability is already miles ahead of where either of them were at his young age. Shaw will, in my humble opinion, become the next Ashley Cole for England and he’s exactly a decade younger than Baines who spent his entire career behind Cole in the international pecking order.
Plus, United already have Patrice Evra – what a mark he could have made on Shaw’s development as a mentor with Shaw as his understudy. By the time Evra is ready to hang up his boots for the Red Devils, Shaw could have been coming of age and heading into the best years of his career at Old Trafford.
Bringing in Luke Shaw would represent a move for the future of the club but, in their relentless pursuit and, ultimately, failure in their chase for Baines, the club missed the bigger picture. They should have been looking at Shaw all along.
image: © mischatuffield