The £30 million that Manchester United paid for Luke Shaw started to look like a colossal waste of money at the end of the 2016 / 17 season. After being touted as a future England star after a successful start to his career at Southampton, United swooped in with a view to making Shaw into a world-class left back.
Shaw began life in Southampton’s academy at the age of 8, and by 15 was playing in Southampton’s under 18 side. After his senior appearances Shaw was soon attracting the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City, with then-manager Nigel Adkins trying his best to keep hold of the wonderkid. When United came calling with a then world record fee for a teenager, even the most pessimistic of Southampton fans couldn’t argue against Shaw’s decision.
Shaw had an average to good first season in Manchester, which saw him appear 16 times in the leage in 2014 / 15. However, his career was halted dead by a double leg fracture in a Champion’s League against PSV in 2015, when Hector Moreno slid in in a poor challenge. Shaw recently revealed that he almost lost his leg in the incident, and was sidelined for the rest of the season.
After a long recovery period, Shaw returned to competitive football, playing in the community shield at the start of the 2016/17 season. Despite being back to full fitness, manager Jose Mourinho decided he was worthy of only 11 league appearances and 4 cup games, many as a substitute. Mud slinging about Shaw’s unhealthy lifestyle and Mourinho’s penchant for abandoning promising youngsters went back and forth, and it looked like Shaw’s United career would come to an end. In March of this year, the total deterioration of the player / manager relationship looked to be complete, with fellow players expressing shock at just how poorly Mourinho was treating his player.
So when Shaw didn’t leave the club in the summer, many fans and pundits were shocked that Mourinho was willing to keep hold of a young player who he had publicly denounced as ‘lazy and overweight’. Nevertheless, Shaw was given a start at left-back for the season opener against Leicester City, and he certainly didn’t disappoint.
Looking like an entirely new player, Shaw provided options in both attack and defence, before scoring his first senior goal at United with an excellent solo effort. The comeback hasn’t been short-lived either, with Shaw starting in every other Premier League game so far this season. It wouldn’t be unfair to suggest that Shaw has been one of the only bright lights of a miserable season so far for Manchester United. Their poor start has seen betting sites all but rule them out of winning the title.
With something of a renaissance under a manager who isn’t exactly supportive of unavailable players, or indeed anyone under the age of 28 in most instance, Shaw may have just managed to do something that many other young players who have crossed Mourinho have failed to do – get back on the team sheet. From Kevin de Bruyne to Mario Balotelli, Mourinho absolutely loves falling out with youngsters, so it’s quite something to see Luke Shaw becoming a first choice left back under his leadership.
His future seems solid at United now if he can keep up his form, but Shaw will have both eyes on England appearances moving forward. After missing an excellent World Cup, Shaw will want to be a big part of both Euro 2020 and World Cup 2022 and will be banging on Gareth Southgate’s door if he continues to maintain form. Whether he can stay fit and uninjured will remain his biggest challenge.