Marcos Rojo was the obvious replacement but surgery on a dislocated shoulder has ruled him out of contention as well. In their places the likes of Ashley Young, Matteo Darmian and Daley Blind have all tried but, through injuries and a need elsewhere on the pitch, failed to fill Shaw’s shoes.
However, it looks like van Gaal might have stumbled on a solution which he was initially forced to adopt but one which may well prove to be the best one; Cameron Borthwick-Jackson.
Thanks to a series of injuries which limited van Gaal’s options, the 18-year-old made his first-team debut with a cameo appearance against West Brom at home and followed it up with starts against Wolfsburg and Bournemouth. Then, after an injury to Young on Saturday, was thrown into the deep end away at Anfield. It was an occasion which could have engulfed him but he instead put in a great account of himself and was more than assured in a game which had the potential to make him crumble.
Chris Smalling was certainly impressed by how Borthwick-Jackson played.
“I think he showed he is ready for a stage like this,” Chris said.
“He has been drip fed quite a few games this season and he has done very well. To be able to stand up here and perform like he did shows he is ready for any game because if you can perform here then you can perform anywhere in the league.”
Some players swim when thrown in the deep end and Borthwick-Jacskon really looks like he will do just that. While the finer points of his game are rough – his crossing for example – his overall game is very polished for someone so young in what is one of the hardest positions in football, the modern day-full-back.
Bringing through younger players is van Gaal’s philosophy. It is why he uses a small squad so they can get opportunities and Borthwick-Jackson is one such player who has really taken advantage of that.
While I’d been quietly impressed with how he got on in his first few appearances, it was the overall assured manner of how he played against Liverpool at Anfield which really made me think he could be an excellent interim left-back.
Borthwick-Jackson faces an uphill struggle in trying to cement himself so firmly that he won’t be uprooted when Shaw is fit again but in the mean time, it looks like van Gaal has found the best possible replacement he can within the squad and it’s about time he stopped using players out of position in order to try and play them at left-back.