This week two years ago marked near breaking point for Luke Shaw’s Manchester United career. A series of newspaper articles briefed Shaw felt his time at United was up.
The Times on March 20 2018 headlined: “How Luke Shaw realised he had no future under José Mourinho”.
The Telegraph‘s report two days earlier was far uglier, “Man Utd players stunned by Jose Mourinho’s ‘bullying’ of Luke Shaw“.
The story was that Shaw had become fed up of constant criticism, early substitutions, and felt singled out. He felt that there was no way forward at Old Trafford, with Ashley Young getting picked ahead of him.
Two steps to turning it around
In 2020 we see a confident Luke Shaw, one who is currently playing the best football of his United career, displaying tactical and defensive nous, featuring at both left-back and centre-back in a back three.
He deserves enormous credit for his turnaround, in terms of his actual performances, and having the mental strength to decide to fight on and prove his worth.
The first step in turning his United career around came by finally winning Mourinho over.
In March 2018, it had seemed that Shaw would consider the option of letting his contract run down to June 2019 and leave the club on a free transfer.
Remarkably, six months later, Shaw had signed a new contract, with Mourinho’s approval.
During the summer of 2018, Shaw proved himself to Mourinho and started United’s first game of the campaign, a 2-1 win over Leicester, in which Shaw scored his first Red Devils goal.
By October he had penned a new deal, with Shaw telling The Telegraph: ” If you looked at my situation in the last year or year and a bit you would have thought this could have kind of been impossible but I worked hard and wanted to make sure my future was here to help this club.”
Shaw’s performances in 2018/19, even if they trailed off by the following March, were enough for him to win the season’s Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year Award.
By this point Mourinho had been fired and replaced by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
A new challenge emerges
This season has been a testing one for Shaw and he has come through it stronger.
The first half saw injury issues sideline him for three months and during this time, Brandon Williams emerged as a challenger for his place.
Williams looked quicker, and played with superior attacking quality, and looked poised to keep Shaw on the bench.
Long-term that might be the case, but Shaw has bounced back strongly and shown he is not willing to give up his spot without a fight.
United’s tactical flexibility and Shaw’s adaptability has shown the pair can play together, and this will prolong the defender’s career at the top level.
Recently Shaw has been one of United’s best and most dependable performers and has displaced Williams as first choice again.
He has made 132 appearances for the club since joining in 2014, a figure which would be far higher if not for serious injuries.
There’s every chance he will go on to reach and surpass the 200 and 250 game marks too.
Right now under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Shaw has a manager who totally believes in him.
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