Manchester United’s start to the season has highlighted who their most important player is

From form to tactics, recruitment to man management, takeovers to budgets, the Reds have issues almost across the board. On the pitch, United have been well below standards this term.

Injuries havent helped and the opening months have highlighted just how important one absentee is to the team. Luke Shaw hasnt featured since the defeat at Tottenham in August and isnt set to return until after this months international break. His absence has been keenly felt.

The full-back was a vital cog in Uniteds system last season, impressing at left-back and filling in capably at centre half when required. His absence has been felt with the Reds lacking a consistent presence on the left of defence while being forced into handing Jonny Evans more minutes than was envisaged in the middle.

Shaws dynamism on the flank, his ability to get forward and his set-piece strengths were all key facets last term while his link-up with Marcus Rashford helped the latter to an incredible goalscoring season. He hasnt been the same player this term and while that cant solely be attributed to Shaws absence, its certainly been a factor.

The two combined well on plenty of occasions last season to help United finish third in the table and secure the Carabao Cup. Rashford hasn&apost had that consistency this term.

And while United are under-performing, those sidelined by injury often become better players simply by not being part of the current malaise. In Shaw&aposs case, his absence can&apost be overstated. His form last season led his manager to label him the best left-back in the country.

“He&aposs the best left full-back in the UK,” Ten Hag said after Shaw penned a new deal in April. “We are really happy that he extended his contract and that he stays longer with us and is going with us in this project and in this journey.