When Manchester United paid Southampton £30 million for a then 18-year-old Luke Shaw in June 2014, most Red Devil fans thought that the club had finally signed the long-term successor to Patrice Evra and that the talented youngster would go on to be the Old Trafford side’s number one left-back for the next decade.
This was, after all, a young player who had shown superb potential at St.Mary’s; in the 2014/2015 season he was voted on to the Premier League team of the year and the deal that took him to Manchester made him the most expensive teenager in world football.
However, things have not quite gone to plan for Shaw at United. Ashley Young – a converted winger – started this weekend’s Premier League game against Crystal Palace, essentially relegating the former Southampton man to fourth choice left-back behind Daley Blind and Matteo Darmian.
During the pacey left-back’s debut campaign at United, he struggled with form, fitness and just generally settling into life at a club as big as Manchester United. In total Shaw managed 15 appearances for The Reds, and although there were flashes of potential this was clearly a youngster who needed time to adjust to life at Old Trafford.
There were high hopes for his second season, and then United boss Louis Van Gaal stated in pre-season that he expected the season to be ”the year of Luke Shaw.”
Sadly, his season was cruelly cut short after just 7 appearances when he suffered a horrific leg break, due to a brutal tackle by Hector Moreno in a Champions League game against PSV Eindhoven.
After working his way back to full fitness Shaw started last season as first-choice left-back, but after an early season defeat to Watford, United’s new boss Jose Mourinho publicly criticised the player.
The England international was dropped from The Reds’ starting XI thereafter, and picked up several injuries. He would go on to play only 11 times in the Premier League for the entire 2016/2017 season.
Mourinho has questioned the 22-year-old’s attitude, desire and footballing intelligence publicly on several ocassions. Leading many observers to wonder if the Portuguese coach holds a grudge against Shaw for choosing to move to United instead of Chelsea – who he then coached – in the summer of 2014.
This theory loses some credence however, when you consider Mourinho had a big falling out with the Red Devil’s £40 million summer signing Nemanja Matic at Chelsea. He was though prepared to bury the hatchet as the Serbian has the ability to fulfil a vital role in his United team.
Mourinho is undoubtedly a tough task master and expects his players to be intensely driven and determined to succeed. Maybe, the reason his tough love approach is not working with Shaw can be understood by how the left-back has been described by his previous managers, especially those at Southampton.
Both Nigel Adkins and Mauricio Pochettino have both described him as a complex youngster who needed a lot of care and attention in order for the best to be brought out of him. Former Saints boss Adkins, admits that even as a 15-year-old, Shaw’s immense talent was evident; although even then he struggled with fitness and mentality issues. So much so that the club basically had to designate several members of staff to constantly monitor and nurture their exciting young talent.
There are of course extenuating circumstances for Shaws struggles at Old Trafford. A big-money move from a family club like Southampton to a club the size of United would be difficult for any 18-year-old. The leg break was also a major setback both physically and psychologically.
However, Shaw has seemed to be in a make or break phase of his Manchester United career for the last 12 – 18 months, and his performances have been nowhere near good enough.
This might sound a tad harsh, but it really is time for him to man up, and grasp his opportunity at one of the biggest clubs in the world.
The only person who can do that is Shaw himself, he cannot – and rightfully so – expect to be mollycoddled the way he was at Southampton. You really would have to expect any footballer on £100k plus a week to have sufficient self motivation and determination to succeed. Although, most reports coming out of the club over the last 12 months point towards a young man who is sullen and withdrawn.
It really is a sad state of affairs as Shaw has all the technical and physical attributes to become a world class left-back.
Considering the fact the 22-year-old has been fit for over a month now, and is United’s only natural left back; only featuring for a few minutes as a substitute in a Carabao cup game against Burton Albion tells you exactly how far he is down the pecking order in Mourninho’s squad.
It really is a pity and you suspect in the future there may well be regrets from both parties, but all the evidence points to Luke Shaw’s Manchester United career being well and truly over.
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