The answer to Man Utd’s left-back woes is a short socks technical beast – & he’s only 16

It’s the dawn of a new era at Manchester United with Sir Jim Ratcliffe officially in as a minority owner, but it’ll take a while for the bad habits and collateral damage of yesteryear to be fully weeded out.

What’s the collateral damage, you ask?

You didn’t ask, actually, because if you’ve been living on planet Earth and taken even the slightest interest in football in the last 15 years, you’d know all about how much of a circus it’s been at United, with ugly truths rearing their heads for fun in the post-Fergie era.

We’re not going to open that can of worms now – that’s a can for Sir Jim and his cycling/petrochemical buddies to open – but one thing we do need to address is the left-back situation in Erik ten Hag’s squad.

A return to form after a difficult end to 2023 has papered over some cracks, but also been a sign of what United can be capable of with a fully fit side.

Unfortunately for Ten Hag, the Luke Shaw dilemma continues to persist. That dilemma being his fantastic double act of being both one of football’s most gifted and talented left-backs, but also being made of glass.

Shaw has been one of United’s best players in recent seasons and has shaken off inconsistencies to establish himself as one of the best full-backs in the game – when fit.

He’s United’s Alfa Romeo, is Shaw. Stylish, slick, one of a kind and the car you’ve had the pleasure of owning for years. But also the car that’s given you sleepless nights, several roadside recoveries and an expensive medical bill to pay.

That’s why selling Alvaro Fernandez and cancelling Sergio Reguilon’s loan deal – while Tyrell Malacia is also injured – made no sense at first. Thankfully, Harry Amass has emerged, the stars have aligned and now Ten Hag’s masterplan all suddenly becomes a lot clearer.

Amass has been training with United’s first team on and off since the turn of the new year, and at just 16, is widely regarded as one of the club’s crown jewels.

Injury to Shaw or not, the way Ten Hag has slowly been integrating Amass into the senior setup feels eerily similar to the way in which he did with Kobbie Mainoo in 2022-23 – and look at him now.

Born in London, Amass got his footballing education with Watford and was named on their bench in 2023 at the age of just 15 for an FA Cup third-round tie.

He moved to United that summer and has enjoyed a spectacular first year in red, proving pivotal to their almost flawless under-18 campaign thus far, and looks set to be hot-shotted into the first team in his first season – at just 16 years old.

A young gun with bags of natural talent and technical ability that Pep Guardiola would give a kidney for, it’s clear to see why Ten Hag was so desperate to clear the decks and create a path for his ascent.

What’s most striking about Amass is the maturity already evident in his displays. For someone so green, he approaches every situation in and out of possession with a serious composure.

Watching him glide with the ball at his feet and dink it between tight gaps is coincidentally very Luke Shaw-esque. And considering how technically adept he is, that’s a brilliant path to be on.

We could hype Amass up with a myriad of technical terms, wax lyrical about his quick rise and dig out the numbers to back it all up, but what’s the point? It’s quite obvious he’s an elite prospect – just look at the old-school, short socks.

That’s a player right there. No messing around – just straight business, which is exactly what United need right now.

By Mitch Wilks

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