By Mark Weasley
When Manchester United signed Luke Shaw in the summer of 2014, he was heralded as the next big thing at Old Trafford. The England international had impressed for Southampton in the 2013/14 season and was touted as the long-term replacement for legendary left back, Patrice Evra.
The Frenchman had made the left side of defence his forte, and left Old Trafford that summer after eight solid years of service. United had signed Shaw in a £27m deal, beating competition from Jose Mourinho, now United boss, who was then at Chelsea. Ashley Cole was also nearing the end of the career, and Mourinho knew that at age 18, he had close to 17 years at the top level with proper mentoring.
Fast forward three years and Shaw is at crossroads in his United career. He is still convalescing, but is expected fully back in September to compete for places in the United backline.
Injuries and confidence issues have been the story of his Old Tafford career and that has threatened to ensure that he is labelled a “flop”. Mourinho prefers to keep Matteo Darmian, as he is impressed with the Italian’s commitment and willingness to fight for his place, something the Portuguese tactician has found lacking in the left back.
Still only 22, Shaw still had the rest of his career ahead of him, and was looking at establishing himself in the first team before a nasty injury in a Champions League clash against PSV, suffering double leg fracture.
Since then, he has looked short on confidence, constantly afraid of delving into tackles. The impact on him has been more of psychological, with manager, Mourinho criticising the player for his lack of effort and willingness to play through the pain barrier.
Going into next season, his fourth at United, he must acknowledge that it is now or never, and kick on from his injury hell and finally be the player we all thought him to be. The fans have been patient as they have acknowledged his injury torment, but patience in football these days is relative.
With United in four competitions next season and with a fair chance of winning each, Shaw will get his time to shine. He must grab the opportunity with both hands or see his United career over before it actually begun.
For a player with massive potential, Shaw must deliver and work his way into his manager’s mind. It will be four years of building himself and he will be better for it. A Chinese proverb says, “As diamond can’t be polished without friction, so a person can’t be perfected without trials and tribulation”.