Luke Shaw has experienced a tumultuous chapter in his career since the appointment of Jose Mourinho in 2016. He’s started the new season in sensational fashion by bagging his first ever senior goal to help guide Manchester United to victory over Leicester City.
Jose Mourinho has made life very difficult for Shaw since his arrival at Old Trafford. The England international had recently recovered from a double leg break, which he’d sustained during the previous season, but Mourinho continued to echo negative comments regarding his commitment and work ethic.
Ashley Young became first-choice at left back and delivered on a consistent basis for Manchester United last season. He’s improved substantially in his unfamiliar role and translated his form at club level onto the international stage with England at the 2018 World Cup.
Daley Blind, who rivalled Shaw in the left back position, has departed to Ajax, and Darmian was also linked with a return to his native Italy. The latter played against The Foxes, but was deployed on the other flank.
It’ll be difficult for Mourinho to overlook Young for a spot in the starting line-up but if Shaw is able to build on his early form then it could create a positive dilemma for the Portuguese coach.
The Rise of Luke Shaw
Southampton is notorious for producing noteworthy talent with players such as Alan Shearer, Matt Le Tissier, Dennis Wise, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gareth Bale emerging from the youth ranks of the Hampshire outfit.
In 2003, Southampton plucked Luke Shaw from Molesey Juniors at just eight years of age, after he’d been rejected by his boyhood club Chelsea. Shaw gradually progressed through the ranks with The Saints and represented the under 18 side when aged only 15.
Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City had shown an interest in the 16 year old prior to his debut at the St Mary’s Stadium. However, his early career lied in Southampton and he was given his first team debut in the FA Cup in January 2012.
Following their promotion to the Premier League, Southampton handed Luke Shaw and three other academy graduates new contracts. He’d go onto establish himself at left back during their opening two seasons in the Premier League and make 67 appearances in all competitions.
An opportunity on the international scene came knocking in 2014 when he was selected for the England squad to compete at the World Cup finals in Brazil. Three Lions endured a dismal campaign and Shaw made just one appearance in a dead rubber stalemate over Costa Rica, following their elimination at the group stage.
Manchester United launched a bid in the region of £30 million to secure his services in June 2014, making him the then most expensive teenager in world football. His debut season at Old Trafford was marred by injuries and inconsistency.
The Steep Decline
Louis Van Gaal continued to apply his trust in Shaw, despite his unconvincing performance in the 2014/15 season. He enjoyed a fruitful spell at the beginning of the 2015/16 season, displaying exceptional balance between his defensive and offensive duties.
However, his season was drawn to a premature conclusion when PSV Eindhoven defender Hector Moreno inflicted a double leg break with a sliding challenge during a UEFA Champions League group stage tie.
Although he worked tirelessly to return to training within six months, Van Gaal was unwilling to risk his fitness in the climactic stages of the season. Shaw was preserved for the next season under Jose Mourinho, but his situation was exacerbated under the tutelage of the controversial Portuguese dictator.
Mourinho has regularly been accused of “bullying” Shaw due to his comments and actions towards him over the past two years. The former Chelsea manager has been seen more than once bursting veins in his neck to express his anger towards the 23 year old.
It’s been sickening at times to witness Mourinho drain the life out of such a promising talent, but it could prove a stroke of genius if Shaw miraculously revives his career at Manchester United.
What Next For Shaw?
Mourinho is still likely to have Ashley Young chalked down ahead of Shaw in the pecking order, but he’s unlikely to be immediately reinstalled to the frontline after a tiresome summer in Russia.
Therefore, Shaw must continue to seize the opportunity in the starting line-up and provide a selection dilemma for Jose Mourinho. His performance against Leicester City was exceptional but he must prove that he can deliver strong performances on a consistent basis.
I’m convinced that Shaw has the potential to revive his career and it’ll be an interesting case to watch develop over the season. Manchester United has recently allowed Daley Blind to return to Ajax and Mourinho selected Matteo Darmian at right back. This suggests that Shaw will be handed far more playing opportunities this season and if he continues to perform then he could become a crucial component in The Red Devils’ rear guard.