During what can only be described as an ongoing painful transition period for Manchester United fans, one club tradition that manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has kept alive is his faith in incorporating youth players into the first team. Brandon Williams is one of many to have been exposed to more regular first-team football with the likes of Mason Greenwood also benefiting from Ole's system. Could Williams be the answer to where United should look next when it comes to the left-back role?
Taking his chance
The England Under 20 international has had quite the rise to promise. After registering four assists in five appearances for United's Premier League 2 side, the attack-minded full-back was swiftly drafted into United's first team after Luke Shaw picked up a hamstring injury. Since then, Williams has gone on to make five Premier League appearances with his last three in a row all being starts, he has also featured in two Europa League and one League Cup game. Despite his high attacking work rate, his ball retention is impressive - averaging an 86.8% pass accuracy so far in the Europa League, whilst averaging 82.7% accuracy in the Premier League. Defensively, the youngster averages a 57% tackle success rate whilst having both three clearances and three interceptions during his brief time in Englands top-flight. Combining that with his 18 ball recoveries and his 16 duals won, it is fair to say Williams has had a positive season so far.
During his time with the first team, it became clear to the United faithful that Williams embodied the attack-minded attitude that is so well known with the club - constantly making both over-lapping and under-lapping support runs deep into opposition territory to swing in a cross, or even have a shot on target himself. Williams scored his first goal with an impressive volley during a 3-3 draw with Sheffield United two match-weeks ago. Aggression and passion are also part of his game, which is something United fans are enjoying watching as opposed to Shaw, who has had his divided opinion during his time in Manchester.
One area that needs improvement is that of the full-backs discipline. Having picked up 3 yellow cards out of 5 fouls, the youngster is only two more cautions away from a suspension in such a short time. Having a reputation amongst the youth ranks for his physicality, his inexperience and lack of maturity when it comes to making challenges is partly what led to Williams being subbed off after picking up a booking earlier in the game United's 2-2 draw with Aston Villa. Experience and knowledge about reading different opponents and situations come with time - and it seems he will get just that through his managers continued faith in him.
Better option than Shaw
Watching a young player tear up and down the wings and showing no fear when challenging opponents is something that the fans, and the manager no doubt, love to see. Williams and Shaw both have their flaws defensively - but the youngsters better goal threat, work rate and ability to use both feet offer more than that of Shaw. Williams is comfortable with both feet, allowing him to control and move the ball in almost any given situation, including beating his man to put in a cross. When in comparison to being limited to Shaw's left foot only style of play and main use of only over-lapping runs, Brandon Williams looks a more appealing option to have in a side where he will only get better and learn with more time without costing United any crucial points for title run-ins as they continue to rebuild themselves to get back to competing with the Premier League's very best once again.