At 17 years old, Luke Shaw was a promising defender whose skills attracted some of the league’s best managers. Poised as the answer to Manchester United’s left-back woes, it’s not hard to see why Ed Woodward splashed £30 million four years ago to bring his talents to Old Trafford.
Since his arrival, the now 23 year-old has undergone somewhat of a roller-coaster tenure as a Red Devil.
Poor form saw Shaw appear in only 11 Premier League matches during his debut season at United. However, he progressively appeared to win then manager Louis Van Gaal over with spurts of augmented displays. In his sophomore year, Shaw’s improved form elevated his status to first-team regular. Then, at the most inopportune time, he suffered a disastrous double leg fracture in the Red Devils’ first Champions League match of the 2015 campaign against PSV.
By the time he was ready to win back his role as starting left-back, José Mourinho had been appointed the boss and it was reported he was shopping for Shaw’s next home. United were back to settling on Ashley Young, a makeshift full-back, to defend on the left.
Perhaps Shaw realized if changes didn’t occur soon, he could be facing his final months in a United kit. While some of his mates spent their summer in Russia, Shaw trained in Dubai on his own. Desperate to diffuse his reputation as an overweight waste, he returned to Manchester early to work with United’s fitness coach prior to the August 10th opener.
The 2018/2019 campaign, while fairly unkind to Mourinho’s side as a whole, has been exceptionally friendly to Shaw. United opened their Premier League year with a home win against Leicester City, and Shaw proved to be the game changer in that match. Not only did he completely command his post, he opened his scoring account with a remarkable volley to double the lead against the Foxes. His efforts earn him a much-deserved man of the match title, and his following three performances has lead to the August player of the month honors for the club.
Even in the embarrassing loss to Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham two matches later, Mourinho had nothing but praise for Shaw, who he had publicly criticized in the past for his inconsistent fitness and negative attitude.
This boost naturally comes at the expense of Young, who played under Southgate’s helm for five World Cup matches. The 33 year-old is still recovering from his international appearance in Russia, and by the looks of it could be warming the bench Shaw once occupied.
Following his recall, Mou praised his staff and Shaw, saying his promotion was a reward for all of his “hard work.” Mou also dished on how Shaw is feeling after having a terrific start to the year.
”Mentally, physically, he is stronger. Tactically, he has a better understanding and we are very happy for him. It is extraordinary for him.”
To his manager’s credit, this also shows that Mou can actually reward his men on merit. The relationship between him and Shaw hasn’t been the most solid, and it is no secret that Mourinho is a fan of Young. However, there’s also no denying that even when the player you’ve spent the better half of interviews reprimanding is playing well, you should reconsider if he belongs on your bench.
Shaw also confessed that his manager was just in chastising him for his conflicting form.
“It was a tough few years but it made me stronger mentally. I wanted to prove to him I can do what he said I couldn’t.
“I’ve matured. You could say I’ve gone from a kid to a man. I know what I need to do to push myself. I want to play for Manchester United, stay there and prove my worth to the team.”
Shaw’s current contract is in its final year, and the suspense surrounding whether he’ll remain in a United shirt is arguably enough to light a fire under his boots. United may have to wait months before they can add to their roster, but Shaw is building a comfortable case as to why José Mourinho should shop for another position outside of his own.
Even though Manchester United now have to play catch up in order to find themselves competitive enough to challenge Manchester City as league victors, fans can take solace knowing that the Luke Shaw who they were promised four years may be finally worth the hefty price tag that accompanied it. While the question remains now if he is able to continue this streak of stability at the back, at least he has not only his manager’s confidence, but also much of his own.