Manchester United’s team sheet to face Liverpool on Sunday contained plenty of positive news on the injury front.
David de Gea was a surprise inclusion in goal, Aaron Wan-Bissaka was fit to start again and Anthony Martial returned to the bench.
But there was still no sign of Luke Shaw, who has been out since August but returned to training, raising hopes he would be able to return.
Today it emerged Shaw has suffered a setback, with The Mail reporting he is heading to Dubai for warm weather training to see if a more focused recovery programme can help his rehab. It certainly doesn’t seem he will be back imminently.
United fans are still waiting to see Shaw’s best
Shaw’s thigh injury against Crystal Palace continued his rotten luck with injury during his Old Trafford career.
He started the 2015/16 in the same form that earned him his United move, before a broken leg set his progress back a long way.
Jose Mourinho dug him out more than once about his fitness and commitment to getting back to his absolute best.
Although Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been more forgiving, Shaw is yet to recover the dynamism which made him such hot property when he burst onto the scene as a young player.
Further, United have picked up so many muscle injuries this season already – which is frustrating – and the fact it has dragged on for eight weeks without Shaw being on the bench only exacerbates that feeling.
Young is not up to replacing Shaw
Twice United have let 1-0 leads slip against top six sides and twice Ashley Young has not done enough to stop the equalisers going in because he was too busy appealing for offside.
That is criminal for any player, let alone one of his experience.
United simply don’t have a quality replacement for Shaw – although Brandon Williams should be elevated to second choice and made his debut in the closing stages against Liverpool.
That lack of cover – and Young’s persistent presence in the side – makes Shaw’s absence more damaging to United.
Shaw cannot return to action soon enough. And when he does, United fans will want to see a player finally making good on his vast potential.