As part of my weekly Manchester United transfer series, I decided to look at the career of Luke Shaw at Manchester United, the present and whether or not there is a future for the young Englishman at Old Trafford beyond the Summer of 2018.
It is easy to forget some of the more simpler issues – amidst the whole argument surrounding United’s Premier League season with it dividing opinion among the fans, progress versus the lack of entertainment, possibility of winning silverware versus the whopping 19-point gap at the top, replacing Michael Carrick in the Summer versus extending Marouane Fellaini’s contract – the polarising themes are endless at Mourinho’s Manchester United.
The continued existence of Luke Shaw at the club without really affecting the first team in a way he should be – is one of those things now at Manchester United that generates its own subset of narratives.
It is no secret that Luke Shaw’s career has completely stalled at Old Trafford. Brought in for a hefty £30-million from Southampton by Louis van Gaal, the future of Luke Shaw at Manchester United looked rosy – with him destined to be the club’s first choice left back for the foreseeable future. For Luke Shaw was seen as a natural heir to fan favourite Patrice Evra – who, in his heyday, was as comfortable defending as he was at galloping forward with the ball.
It is no coincidence that Manchester United were at their entertaining selves in the first few weeks of 2015/16 – when Luke Shaw played like the Luke Shaw at Southampton – a daring go-getter of a full-back who could really hurt the opposition with his pace and directness on the ball.
What followed was a horror injury, a double-leg break in Eindhoven that halted his blinding run – both literally and metaphorically as it put an abrupt end to his season then, might have also brought his whole career at Manchester United to a cruel stop. For someone whose entire influence on a football match depended on raw pace, this was not going to be a fairy-tale comeback. And it hasn’t been.
In 2016/17, the England international made 11 appearances in the Premier League, 9 were starts and a further 4 in Europa League which Manchester United won in Stockholm. Shaw missed the final at the Friends Arena due to injury as Italian Matteo Darmian, who could leave the club in the Summer, started at left-back and carried out Mourinho’s instructions to a tee for the entire game as United stifled a young Ajax side into submission.
2017/18 has not been any kinder to the former Southampton fullback. He has made only 8 starts in the league and came on from the bench twice – and a further 1 full 90-minute appearance in the Champions League. He made 2 consecutive starts in the Premier League only once in the season – in the busy December period starting against Burnley on Boxing Day and four days later – against Southampton. Two relatively straightforward (no disrespect to either of the teams) fixtures at home – and United won neither with Luke Shaw failing to stand out in the 180 minutes of ‘precious’ first-team football.
With the club’s active pursuit of fresh legs at left-back, it does look like Jose Mourinho has made his mind with respect to the future of the still-young-and-promising-22-year-old Luke Shaw at Manchester United.
Alex Sandro of Juventus, who has been heavily linked with an early transfer to United, at 27, is exactly the kind of ‘ready-made player’ who the Portuguese usually builds his successful teams with: strong, dependable and always available when needed to fill in for multiple roles if needs be. The Brazilian made over 30 appearances for Juventus in a fairly successful campaign for the Old Lady and will offer enough Champions League experience under his belt. That’s more appearances than what Luke Shaw has managed in the last two seasons combined at United.
With Pep Guardiola winning the Premier League at a canter – unwavering in his style and philosophy from day one, it is understandable to think that the only way Mourinho can mount a serious challenge for the crown is with a team moulded in his image: single-minded and fiercely loyal to the cause.
In that case, it is hard to see the 22-year old ever succeeding under the Portuguese.