It’s an interesting period in the season, especially if you are associated with Manchester United in any way, shape or form. United are the only side in England still competing on all four fronts – with the highest active unbeaten run in all competitions. Jose Mourinho after early promise and an October lull has had his Manchester United click into gear and the performances and results have been consistently solid, if not spectacular.
Part of that has been Mourinho’s own consistency in team selection. Gone are the days when United’s starting eleven was a subject of indecisiveness as much as the identity of the football club was. The Portuguese has seen to the former issue that even a casual observer of Manchester United can now predict the lineup ahead of a game with a high degree of accuracy. As for the identity, Manchester United look to have recaptured their flair for attacking football with a largely entertaining and cut-throat plan A and a very sensible plan B, which in recent weeks, has made a tangible difference on the scoreboard.
Much of that success can be attributed to the settled squad that Mourinho is perhaps having a great deal of fun managing, but there is still one chink in the armour, a hole in the suit, that United are still trying to find an adequate cover to plug.
Having Daley Blind, Mateo Darmian, Marcos Rojo alongside the only real natural in that position – Luke Shaw, the left-back position on paper, is where the Red Devils are really well stocked in. With as many as four players able to play the role to a decent standard, it is unimaginable how it is actually perceived as the one glaring weakness in an otherwise strong squad.
The career of Luke Shaw has completely stalled at Manchester United since he made that big money transfer to Old Trafford as a teenager. Still only 21, Shaw is already at the stage where he has to prove that he has firmly bought into Mourinho’s ideas but it is hard to make a case why he cannot do that despite Mourinho’s often criticised manner of handling footballers in their formative stages.
He has only made 13 appearances so far including seven in the league but literally the only memory of him under Mourinho has come off the pitch rather than on it, when the Portuguese voiced his discontent post the 3-1 defeat at Watford citing his lack of effort to stop one of the three goals that the Hornet scored on the day. Mourinho made his disappointment public again when he sounded out players who could not make themselves available on an injury ravaged 3-1 win against Swansea City when one of those two players was indeed Luke Shaw.
For a player who suffered what was almost a career-ending knee break in the Netherlands when Manchester United played in Eindhoven, the general consensus among the fans is that Jose Mourinho may indeed have rushed him when he did not need to, given the cover that was available for that role which was more than adequate as mentioned earlier.
But what remains in favour of Luke Shaw’s readmission in to the starting eleven is there is still a potential room for improvement across that back four and more so in the left-back area. United are still struggling to nail down a player in that position – given the constant rotation between Mateo Darmian and Daley Blind, two players who offer very different things to the team in that position – with Luke Shaw arguably provides the best of both worlds when he is fully fit and confident in his abilities like he was for a brief period in 2015/16 just before that tackle from Hector Moreno.
It’s up to the Portuguese now to bring that level of belief of the 21-year old up in a way he has achieved with some of the defenders he has in his disposal – Phil Jones, most notably, because the talent is there. The left-back has been deemed fit and been training with the first team for quite a while now and barring any illness he should be available for their trip to Stoke City in the weekend.
Maybe it’s time he was not left back at Manchester United.