When the team news for Manchester United's clash with Everton at Goodison Park is released an hour before kick-off on Sunday afternoon, all eyes will be in search of one name.

After just over three months since his last appearance, Luke Shaw is in contention to make his highly anticipated return. He has returned to full training and manager Erik ten Hag has confirmed he could be included in his plans for the weekend's tussle with the Toffees.

Speaking to United's in-house media on Thursday, Ten Hag said: "He's been training for two weeks with the team and we are quite hopeful that he will return in the squad for Sunday's game."

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Should Shaw make the cut, it would be a massive boost ahead of what promises to be a demanding period. The trip to Merseyside is United's first of 10 matches in the space of just 35 days before the end of the year.

Getting Shaw back ahead of such a crucial run of games, both domestically and in Europe, would ease the strain on other members of United's squad, some of whom have covered for the England international during his period of absence. Sergio Reguilon was drafted in on loan on deadline day as temporary cover, but injury and illness-related issues have limited him to just seven appearances thus far.

Diogo Dalot, Victor Lindelof and Sofyan Amrabat have all had to fill in at left-back at one point or another during Shaw's absence, meaning it will no doubt be a huge relief for Ten Hag to have his left-back-in-chief back available. However, it would not be all that surprising if the Dutchman, just like he did on a handful of occasions last season, deployed Shaw as a makeshift centre-back, tasking him with filling the left-sided centre-back berth.

As a progressive ball carrier, Shaw, who played a key role in United's success last season, made life at centre-back look easy last term, deputising for Lisandro Martinez when he was unavailable. He quickly adapted to the responsibility of playing in the heart of the back-four and it was a challenge that he thoroughly enjoyed.

Speaking in April, following United's FA Cup semi-final triumph over Brighton & Hove Albion at Wembley, Shaw said: "When I play in the position, I really enjoy it – I like it a lot. With the injuries and suspension to 'H' (Harry Maguire), I knew I was going to be playing there today.

"I spoke a lot with the manager over the last couple of days about what he wanted me to do and I'm happy to help the team, wherever I play, and today hopefully I did that."

Luke Shaw in action for Manchester United against Brighton & Hove Albion at Wembley in April.
Luke Shaw started last season's FA Cup semi-final at centre-back.

Currently, Maguire is United's chief centre-back, so much so he currently finds himself at the top of the pecking order for the position. He has made the right-sided centre-back spot his in recent weeks and deserves to retain his place for the trip to Goodison Park.

Raphael Varane, despite his undisputed class, has fallen out of favour recently, but that is because Ten Hag is not a massive fan of deploying him in the left-sided centre-back berth. Lindelof, though he is also right-footed, is more comfortable playing in that position.

However, Shaw's expected availability could see him take up residency alongside Maguire at centre-back. His ball-playing credentials, plus the fact he is left-footed, make him more of a like-for-like replacement for Martinez, who would be occupying the left-sided centre-back spot if he was fit.

Speaking on Thursday, Ten Hag said: "They (Maguire and Varane) can play together in certain games but from the start when I came in here, I want a player on the left side (centre-back) who is comfortable on this left side or left foot because it gives you more and better angles."

With that statement in mind, it is hard to look past Shaw being deployed at centre-back at Goodison Park, provided he is fit enough to start. As a capable ball-playing defender, who is both progressive and capable of instigating attacks from deep, it would make sense for him to fill the void that Ten Hag would no doubt love to have Martinez in.

Shaw, though he is likely to be a little rusty after more than three months out, will bring credentials to both the defence and the team as a whole that have been missed. If he starts at centre-back, it is very much possible that Dalot may get the nod at left-back.