Exclusive: Erik ten Hag considering major Man Utd change against Newcastle

The Manchester United manager could make a switch in defence at St James’ Park.
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Erik ten Hag is considering deploying Luke Shaw at centre-back for Saturday’s trip to Newcastle United, ManchesterWorld understands.

The Manchester United defender, who recently returned to the team following a three-month injury layoff, played centrally on a number of occasions last season but has been selected exclusively at left-back in his four appearances this term.

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Ten Hag has openly acknowledged that he prefers to select a right and left-footer at centre-back, and recently admitted that partly explained why Raphael Varane had fallen out of favour, with the ex-Real Madrid not suited to playing alongside Harry Maguire.

“There are moments in certain games where they [Maguire and Varane] can play together and they have already proven they can do it,” the United manager said last month. “But the build-up is not that fluid when one of them is playing from the left centre-back position because I think Licha [Martinez], obviously, Luke Shaw, obviously [are left-footed].

With Martinez injured, Shaw is United’s only real left-footed option in that role and could line up alongside Maguire at the heart of defence against Newcastle, with Sergio Reguilon starting at left full-back.

Shaw impressed in that role last season, with notable performances coming in January’s win over Manchester City, in the 2-2 draw at the Nou Camp and in April’s FA Cup semi-final.

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“He is [impressive], but especially I think for this game, like against City, so in certain roles, he fits very good at centre-back because it allows the full-back to get high and he can defend very good in the left wide area,” Ten Hag said about Shaw’s ability to play at centre-back, ahead of the February’s game against Barcelona.

“That as well [left-footed player], you get better angles in your possession game and we want to dictate in and out of possession. In possession, you have better build-up.”

Following United’s win over City early this year, Ten Hag said: “Luke has the physical power to compete with them and also has the tactical view to make the right decision and technical skills to play in that position.”

United head to St James’ Park on the back of five wins in six Premier League games and could move to within a point of the Champions League places.