Man Utd defender Luke Shaw had a challenging relationship with Jose Mourinho at times but is now back in the team under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Jose Mourinho gives instructions to Luke Shaw“Every player can play bad but when you see ‘please Mr, take me from the pitch’. That is what I thought.”
That was the damning verdict then Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho gave explaining the substitution of Luke Shaw after his side had laboured to a 2-0 FA Cup quarter-final victory over Brighton & Hove Albion in March 2018.
Mourinho described favourite Nemanja Matic as an ‘island of personality, desire and control’ in a post-match interview whereas Shaw was hauled off at half-time in the latest public shaming by his manager.
Football players are criticised on occasion by their manager in the media in the hope it will produce a positive reaction on the pitch. Mourinho has been known to call out a number of his own players during his career and Shaw was no exception.
Two years on, however, and Shaw’s role at Old Trafford has gone from untenable to almost undroppable and the 24-year-old is playing some of his best football under the less abrasive Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The Southampton youth product’s road to redemption at United has hardly been plain-sailing though.
You would be forgiven for thinking he had turned the corner last season after scooping both the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year awards at the annual club celebration night in May.
It had been a turbulent season for United who had gone through a managerial change and such stark differences in results.
Shaw had remained one of few consistent performers after regaining trust under Mourinho and picked up three player of the month awards.
But the left-back lost his place in the side again early this season after two muscle injuries meant he couldn’t return until late November.
Brandon Williams, the young, fearless academy graduate seized his place in the first-team with a ruthless edge in defence and more intent going forward.
Shaw needed to adapt upon his return and provide an alternative option for Solskjaer in an unfamiliar left centre-back position.
The new role the Norwegian has entrusted Shaw with when United are facing more offensively dangerous sides has been a revelation.
He has brought assurance and poise in the back three when in possession, and is seldom beaten in the air.
That confidence has also transferred into Shaw’s play at left-back, helped by his growing understanding with captain Harry Maguire.
He has started all eleven games in the unbeaten run United have been on since January.
Shaw’s resurgence under Solskjaer can be best illustrated by his performance in the 2-0 Manchester derby victory last month.
A controlled aggression alongside Maguire and Victor Lindelof was key in thwarting City’s advances in the opening exchanges. But it was the 15 minute period at the end of the game where he truly proved his worth to the United boss.
Pep Guardiola turned the heat up by bringing on Riyad Mahrez on the right-flank and the match-up with a resilient but tiring left-wing back in Williams was looking ominous.
Williams was ultimately sacrificed in the 78th minute with Eric Bailly slotting in at centre-back and Shaw switching to mark Mahrez.
Shaw nullified the fresh and elusive Algerian’s growing impact by standing him up and remaining resolute in what was his third start within the week.138208672551
His recent revival can be noted down as another success story for Solskjaer who saw him spend many months in the wilderness under the old regime.
“He had a good performance but it was his body with my brain. He was in front of me and I was making every decision for him,” the relentless Mourinho once said in an unusual back-handed compliment after a draw against Everton.
But the now liberated Shaw is visibly enjoying his football and finally proving to his former manager and large sections of the fanbase that he can become a reliable fixture for United.