Erik ten Hag can stick knife into Everton with new Man Utd duo no one expected

Man Utd are making huge changes ahead of Sir Jim Ratcliffe coming into the club | Football Digest

Erik ten Hag could have a welcome returnee among his travelling squad when Manchester United visit Everton on Sunday. Luke Shaw looks set to return to fitness and may be part of a defensive partnership that no one could’ve predicted a few months ago.

United travel to Merseyside as the Premier League’s form team, having won four of their last five games and their previous three away fixtures.

It’s the first of a trifecta of crunch games on the road across seven days to start the long run of domestic football until the March international break.

United will expect a hostile environment in the first outing since the Premier League docked Everton 10 points for a financial breach, leaving Sean Dyche’s side in 19th on four points.

But Shaw’s comeback after being sidelined through injury since the second game of the season at Tottenham Hotspur is a huge boost bound to help United pick up some momentum.

He may not feature at left-back against Everton, though. Instead, the 28-year-old could revert back to a central position to cover for long-term absentee Lisandro Martinez.

Ten Hag utilised Shaw as a left-sided centre-back when he was without Martinez last season, and he impressed alongside Raphael Varane.

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In recent weeks, the United manager’s strict rules about which side his centre-halves operate on have restricted Varane to a bench role. Harry Maguire has started the last eight games on the right.

Varane is low in the pecking order on the left, meaning Victor Lindelof started alongside Maguire and scored the winner in last Saturday’s 1-0 triumph over Luton Town at Old Trafford.

Lindelof will likely retain his place to prevent Shaw from rushing his recovery. But with the Red Devils No 23 back in the fray, there is a chance he returns to action alongside Maguire.

Shaw will gladly fill in if he’s needed. In December, he expressed how much he was enjoying the new role after his second successive central outing against Wolves.

“We’ve got a lot of world-class centre-backs here, but I’m not going to lie, I’ve been really enjoying it,” Shaw told MUTV after the 1-0 win at Molineux.

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“It’s something very different and something I’ve not experienced before. I’ve played at centre-back but in a three and it is totally different.

“The manager has needed me to play there, and I’m happy to play wherever, as long as I’m on that pitch.

“It always helps when you’ve got someone with the world-class ability next to me like Varane. He’s spoken to me a lot, not just during the game, but before, and I’ve really enjoyed it.

“And of course, the ones that are not playing, like Vic [Lindelof] and Harry [Maguire], have been extremely helpful to me with giving details on what to do.”

Given Varane and Martinez’s formidable partnership last term and Maguire’s collapsed summer exit, no one could’ve predicted this had a chance of being Ten Hag’s pairing in November.

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