Manchester United&aposs line-up at Newcastle was pretty left-field by the manager&aposs standards, who became so predictable last season that the in-house graphic designer could release the same template onto social media an hour before every kick-off. Four changes were made from the team that walked out at Rams Park in the Champions League on Wednesday, the most notable of which was the return of Mainoo.
He was preferred for a second consecutive Premier League start over the more experienced Sofyan Amrabat, who has failed to impress since arriving on loan from Fiorentina. The 18-year-old Mainoo was assured and is one of few in red who could walk off the pitch with his head held high.
Diogo Dalot&aposs introduction at left-back saw Shaw moved into a central role, where he partnered Harry Maguire for the first time. The 28-year-old Shaw had been absent since August but has started all three games since returning and played 255 minutes – a sign of his importance to Ten Hag.
It was another dismal away-day against top-eight opposition for United with Anthony Gordon scoring the only goal of the game. Shaw was needed at left-back to block Kieran Trippier&aposs cross but was equally solid alongside Maguire.
Ten Hag has already explained how something like Shaw&aposs move into centre-back, or Victor Lindelof starting there, is not a direct snub of Raphael Varane but the Champions League and World Cup winner must be thinking what he can do to make the team. He has not started a game since the 4-3 Champions League defeat at FC Copenhagen and was unused on Saturday.
The United manager recently dispelled reports linking Varane with a move away from United as speculation but it is becoming increasingly hard to see a future in which the Frenchman is a regular starter at Old Trafford. Ten Hag is keen to lower the age profile in that part of the squad and offloading someone who will be 31 in April will help achieve that goal.
A decision on Amrabat will be far more simple next summer, given he is not a permanent member of the squad. United paid 10million to take him on loan for the season but will have to fork out another 25m if they want to make his move from Fiorentina a permanent one.