We at The Hard Tackle attempt to analyse as to the reason for Luke Shaw’s failure to make much of an impact at Manchester United, especially under Jose Mourinho.
Manchester United have had a rich history of defensive wonderkids, either coming through the academy or being brought in from other clubs. Ranging from the Class of 92 that contained Gary Neville to the likes of Rio Ferdinand who were brought in from Leeds United, United have seen more than a fair share of prodigies.
So it was only ceremonial when Luke Shaw arrived at Manchester United that the defender was seen as a long-term guard at left-back, especially after Patrice Evra had departed. The move though, was a bit complicated and came under the scanner of many. For Shaw had, in course of joining United, turned down Chelsea, a club he was undeniably a fan of and a club that wanted him as much as United.
Shaw seemed to have it all as he started his first steps at United under Louis van Gaal. The left-back impressed during the pre-season and in the beginning of the season, quickly establishing himself as a great prospect. But, it was from the get-go that his fitness had come under the scanner.
Upon his arrival at United, van Gaal had iterated that Luke Shaw was unfit to meet the demands of Manchester United and the player was then advised to train alone to get himself up to the standards. Even Shaw had lamented the fact that the demand at United was far too different than at Southampton and that he had not envisaged such a difference in level of training and fitness.
Nevertheless, he did establish himself within the first-team and looked set to be a regular in the 2015-16 campaign. But, his progress was soon stalled through a horrific injury – a double fracture in his right leg in September against PSV, that kept him out for far too long.
And as the 2015-16 season ended, Manchester United announced the appointment of Jose Mourinho, who was the manager at Chelsea when Luke Shaw had rejected the Blues to join for United. Despite initial fears, Shaw started brightly under the Portuguese, playing almost ninety minutes in each of the first five Premier League games.
But, the loss against Watford was a huge turning point as Mourinho slammed Shaw’s performance and inability to close the players down on his flank. Shaw soon found himself on the bench and his hopes of correcting his mistake faded as he succumbed to a groin injury.
The left-back played just 165 minutes of Premier League football after his return from the injury before a surgery on his foot meant he was out for the remainder of the season. The seeds of doubt had already been sown between the manager and the player, after Mourinho’s public questioning of Shaw’s display against Watford.
Shaw regained fitness in August for the new season, but found himself cast in the wilderness, with the left-back not seeing Premier League action before December, when he started in a 1-0 win over Bournemouth. Shaw seemed to have regained the confidence of his manager as he started game after game in what was a rare but enjoyable sight for United fans.
Even Mourinho commended Shaw’s displays, which was a sure hint towards reconciliation and perhaps the player salvaging his United career. All those hopes were soon dashed as Shaw found himself on the bench again.
Nobody knew why Shaw had been benched, especially after a succession of impressive displays for United on the left flank recently. But, all those questions were answered in the FA Cup tie against Brighton. Shaw started, but was hauled off at half-time and Mourinho’s reasoning cleared all doubts.
The Portuguese claimed that Shaw was incapable of good positioning on the pitch and was not aggressive enough, leading to the manager replacing him with Ashley Young. This was followed by reports of a backroom clash between the player and the manager in the aftermath of his substitution against Brighton.
As the season draws nearer to the end, Jose Mourinho is already shaping up his team for the coming season. And the fact that Luke Shaw is among the names that have failed to make it to the matchday squads in their last two Premier League matches, spells doom for the Englishman.
Now that the entire picture is drawn, we can take a deeper look into the reasoning for Shaw’s stagnation or perhaps, regressing career.
Shaw could argue that while Louis van Gaal had questioned his fitness, the Englishman had soon established himself within the setup under the Dutchman and the manager never spoke ill of him since. Jose Mourinho’s scathing assessments of his inadequacies and even his commitment, stating that his training level is far inferior to other available options, definitely took a hit on his morale.
On the other hand, we could also take a look at some counter-points. For one, Shaw’s injury did derail his progress and had it not been for the double fracture in his right leg under van Gaal, perhaps he would have established himself as a key player at United.
But, we could also argue that Mourinho is not the only manager to question Shaw’s fitness. Van Gaal had also raised doubts on his fitness and training levels when he arrived at United. Apart from this, Shaw’s public admission of looking to reunite with his Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham is unlikely to have fallen on deaf ears.
Mourinho has always wanted 100% commitment from his players and at a moment when Shaw had failed to convince him, to state that he would relish the chance of reuniting with his former manager for a fellow rival for the league title and top four is surely a death wish.
Agreed, if not for the leg injury under van Gaal, Shaw could have become one of the faces of the new United squad. But, injuries are incurred on a daily basis by players. One could question Shaw’s inability to recover properly from the injury. And as far as Mourinho’s question of commitment towards the club is concerned, the player admitting that he would like to pair up with Pochettino at Tottenham is surely answering his manager’s question in the negative.
In conclusion, what we can easily see is that Luke Shaw was unfortunate with his leg fracture under Louis van Gaal. But, under Jose Mourinho, despite the manager’s continuous questioning of his ability and commitment, the player has done little to change the Portuguese’s view of him and has, in fact, further shown his gullible nature by talking openly of a move to a rival club.
Shaw might have been a victim of the unfortunate injury, but his current situation at Manchester United has little do with that and a lot more to do with his own actions or lack of it.