As England took to the Wembley pitch against Italy in the recent World Cup preamble, the figure of Luke Shaw was no where to be seen. Out of the national team reckoning and in danger of exiting from his current club, Manchester United sooner rather than later it’s fair to say that Shaw’s career is at a cross roads even at the tender age of 22. By this point, Shaw should have been a permanent fixture in the England team and have been on the plane to Russia this summer as part of their World Cup squad. But instead he will be house hunting as his agent desperately tries to seal his departure from Manchester United after being once again publicly shanked by his manager Jose Mourinho.
In prison, the shank is a makeshift knife used to injury another inmate with a blow to the abdomen. Whilst the analogy may not be spot on, it does feel to Shaw that his manager continues to stab him where it hurts with his repeated remarks. The latest came after the game against Brighton in the FA Cup when Shaw was substituted at half time. Mourinho was critical of both wing backs (Shaw and Valencia) but in particular of Shaw who was failed to get his positioning correct in order to shut down crosses into the Manchester United box. In the post match interview, Mourinho was quizzed about shaw’s removal and answered bluntly that too many dangerous crosses were coming into the box from Brighton from his side of the pitch so he had to remove him. It was the latest criticism of the player by the Portuguese coach who last year claimed that despite a good performance by Shaw he played with his body, but Mourinho’s mind. Whilst the comment may seem to be extremely harsh, its not uncommon for managers to publicly criticize their players usually with the end goal of generating a positive reaction from them. However in Shaw’s case, it seems to be having the opposite effect with the player visibly becoming more retracted and downhearted from the continuous nit picking of his game by his manager.
To be fair to Mourinho, this is not the first time that Shaw has been criticized by a manager. There have been questions about Shaw’s weight not just under Mourinho but under Van Gaal as well. Less that the player is fat; instead more about his desire to improve himself. Others have questioned his motivation levels too wondering if he is taking life as a professional seriously enough. Shaw isn’t one for being caught out and about during the small hours of the night so instead the criticism stems from his demeanour in training and effort on the pitch that have lead to queries about his desires to play at the highest level. finding a way to motivate Shaw has been the source of much of the frustration from Mourinho who has tried a variety of different techniques with the player to encourage him to come out of his shell and finally live up to his potential. Former Southampton youth coach Jason Dodd said in a recent BBC radio interview that Shaw is the type of character that needs a cuddle first then a jab in order to get him going but it would already appear that Mourinho has tried this approach unsuccessful. Shaw looks likely to depart Old Trafford in the summer much to the players disappointment.
This is hardly the ending that Shaw would have hoped for his United career when he signed from Southampton back in the summer of 2014. After bursting onto the scene at St Mary’s aged only 16, Shaw became a fan favourite and was highly sought after by England and Europe’s big guns. Signing for Manchester United for £30 million turned out to be one of the players proudest moments and for many they expected him to become a mainstay in the United side much like Denis Irwin and Patrice Evra had done years before. Whilst a series of injuries including a nasty double leg break have restricted his playing time somewhat, Shaw has struggled to really grab the attention of his managers and his erratic form has left them wondering if the wrong player joined from Southampton four years ago. Shaw has slowly become a bit part player used sporadically by the club much to everyones frustration. In the last four season, Shaw has made only 39 league appearances for United compared to the 60 he made in two seasons at Southampton. Of those 37, he has been subbed 13 times compared to the 12 at Southampton. To be fair he has featured more in cup and European games for United taking his overall appearance number to 67 (this doesn’t include preseason or International Cup appearances) but primarily in games of less significance or in Champions League/Europa League games after United have qualified.
Redemption is possible for Shaw but he will have to earn it. Manchester’s need for a solid left back is obvious given the extended use of winger by trade Ashley Young or central defenders come left backs Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo in that role. England too need a fit and in form Shaw as they have struggled to find a consistent left back since the international retirement of Ashley Cole. Shaw has the talent as we saw at Southampton but needs to find tune his craft to become one of the worlds best left backs. He needs to learn how to take criticism and turn it into positive motivation to help him improve whether that be at United or at a different club. Maybe its too late under Mourinho so moving away from Old Trafford to a new club and a new coach could be the best thing for him. However If he cant, he runs the risk of slipping into obscurity and wondering where it all went wrong for a player that many believe had/has talent in abundance.