If there’s one thing you can commend Luke Shaw on, it’s his determination to not give up on a place in Manchester United’s first team.
Despite constantly being shot down by Jose Mourinho for his issues with fitness, Shaw seems as though nothing has happened. The left-back recently responded to his gaffer’s criticisms, defending his physique saying he’s never been out of shape.
The 23-year-old’s absence may have been a blessing in disguise. Shaw’s spent the summer with one of United’s personal trainers – and the visual results prove just as much.
Shaw may well be as fit as ever. And Jose would be foolish to not give him one last chance before his contract runs out next summer.
Here’s how Jose can make the most of a fully-fit Luke Shaw.
Recovering Old Form
Before his devastating injury in September 2015, Luke Shaw’s attacking prowess was remarkable.
The full-back would constantly drive the ball forward, cutting into inside channels and getting as close to goal as possible to tee up his teammates.
Shaw was also remarkably composed in defence as well. His last-ditch challenges and electric pace would release United on the counter in swift fashion, reminiscent of many historic United sides.
However, Shaw has never really tallied a lengthy run of games at United. He played just five league games before he broke his leg against PSV. Although, he did tally one assist in those games.
The 23-year-old was without a doubt United’s best player up until then that season. But Shaw’s recovery seemed to take longer than many anticipated.
Out Of Favour
Questions over Shaw’s fitness, diet, and even mentality have caused Jose to neglect Shaw from his matchday squads.
Instead, the Special One seems to have adopted veteran winger, Ashley Young, as his first choice at left-back.
Despite not having a necessarily bad season last year, Young is certainly not at the same level as other left-backs across the world. Luke Shaw is much more of a natural full-back. As confident in attack as defence.
Even though he made just eight starts for United last season, he did manage a pass success rate of 84.9% compared to Ashley Young’s 79.5%. In the one game he played in the Champion’s League, he took two shots at goal, showing he does not lack confidence going forward.
Shaw even poses more of a physical presence over Young, with over ten centimetres in height separating the two. If the trend of Jose’s signings so far have indicated anything, then this should technically make Shaw more favourable.
To put that into perspective, Shaw averaged 1.5 aerial duels won per game last season, while Young averaged just 0.6.
If Jose, for some reason, chooses to follow his Premier League rivals in playing a three-at-the-back system, then Shaw will be perfect in a wing-back role.
His pace, fitness, and technical ability in both attack and defence could be deadly down the left flank.
United’s left-backs in recent times have either had major weaknesses in attack, defence, or both. However, with Luke Shaw, he’s a lot more convincing in these areas.
Having him run past Sanchez on the overlap will only improve United’s attacking options. Alexis will have the support he needs to not get overwhelmed by defenders, and also someone to link up with.
Sanchez’s tendency to roam and cut inside leaves a lot of space on United’s left wing. This limits the chance for crosses coming in from this side of the pitch, making United’s attacks a lot easier to read.
I guess all this comes down to whether Jose Mourinho is willing to trust Shaw.
The two haven’t had the best of relationships since the gaffer’s arrival in 2016. But if last season showed us anything, it’s that this can quickly change.
The signs he’s shown in pre-season have certainly indicated he is willing to challenge for his place in the Manchester United starting XI.
Jose constantly claims he rewards the players who train hard. It’s time now for him to put his money where his mouth is.