From Jose Mourinho’s constant jibes to horrific injuries, Luke Shaw is the chameleon that has adapted to every challenge at Manchester United… and the competition from Brandon Williams has only made him stronger
- Luke Shaw has once again re-established himself in the Manchester United side
- The defender has faced constant uphill battles during his Old Trafford career
- He suffered a horrific leg break, and notoriously clashed with Jose Mourinho
- He has had to deal with the emergence of Brandon Williams at left-back this year
- However, he’s adapted once more, and become a key player in United’s defence
Luke Shaw is no stranger to a bit of adversity. His time at Old Trafford has been littered with it.
From overcoming horrific injuries to coping with overbearing managers, the defender has had several hurdles hurled into his path at Manchester United, but each has been successfully navigated.
The latest test has included the emergences of a young pretender looking to usurp the 24-year-old in defence. Yet again, it appears Shaw is winning the battle against the odds.
Luke Shaw has again emerged stronger from a challenging situation at Manchester United
In another season yet again plagued by fitness problems, Shaw’s United career looked to be on the ropes with the emergence of Brandon Williams, the 19-year-old who made his debut against Rochdale in the Carabao Cup and hasn’t looked back since.
Once again though, he has survived and adapted, moving into a more central role in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s defence. It is not the first time he has emerged stronger from a challenge.
Arriving at Manchester United as the world’s most expensive teenager in 2014, Shaw had turned down boyhood club Chelsea to seal a £31m move to the North West.
After just one season he was hit with a setback, suffering a horrific double fracture in his right leg during a Champions League tie at PSV Eindhoven. The injury was so severe that he nearly lost his leg, Shaw would later reveal.
In 2015, the defender suffered a horrific double leg fracture in a Champions League tie at PSV
If the physical trauma was bad, the mental anguish caused by Jose Mourinho was even tougher to swallow.
Even team-mates were left stunned by the level of, what they perceived to be, bullying from the Portuguese directed at the former Southampton left-back.
LUKE SHAW’S STATS THIS SEASON
After a clash with Everton in 2017, Mourinho implied that Shaw lacked the in-game intelligence to hold down a place in his side.
‘He was in front of me and I was making every decision for him,’ Mourinho told reporters after the game.
‘He has to change his football brain.’
A year later he was hooked off at half-time during an FA Cup clash against Brighton in 2018. Mourinho insisted that his defender had not followed his instructions by being aggressive enough.
He had levelled the same criticism at Antonio Valencia, yet it was the Englishman that was made an example of.
Even since being sacked, Mourinho has still found the time to aim digs at Shaw. Appearing as a pundit on Sky Sports at the beginning of the season, the now-Tottenham boss commented on the extra work he felt Harry Maguire would have to do in his first season as a United centre back.
Shaw’s relationship with Jose Mourinho was notoriously icy, with his boss quick to criticise
‘Maguire is attracted to the outside to cover for Luke [Shaw],’ Mourinho noted during coverage of United’s opening weekend victory over Chelsea.
‘He [Maguire] will learn over the season he needs to do that a lot [cover for Shaw].’
Despite the barrage of abuse from his former boss, he has emerged from it with credit, never rising to it. But it has been his third challenging spell at United which appears to have seen Shaw thrive.
Starting every game at the beginning of this season before suffering a hamstring problem, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was forced to look for cover, and stumbled upon a gem in doing so.
Brandon Williams, a youth academy product who had not even been considered for the club’s pre-season tour to the States, was brought in and made an instant impression.
The impact was such that, when Solskjaer decided to send an inexperienced side to Kazakhstan to face Astana in the Europa League, it was Shaw that was sent on the 6,000-mile round trip and not the 19-year-old.
Teenager Brandon Williams has emerged as a real talent at left-back for United this season
The noises from inside the club were that all had accepted Williams had now leapfrogged Shaw in the pecking order. As someone used to battling through tough situations, Shaw has once again adapted.
A niche has been created for the 24-year-old on the left-hand side of a back three, allowing Williams – or Daniel James on occasions – to fill the role on the flank.
His importance to his current manager is clear. If he is available, Shaw has never been left on the bench, being used in every matchday squad he has been available for.
A move to a more central position has seen his attacking output dampen – although moved back to full-back against Derby County in the FA Cup, he scored one and set up another in the 3-0 win that booked United’s place in the quarter-finals.
His attacking contributions this season in the league have been limited, with the full-back yet to register an assist, compared to his four last season. It is worth noting that three of those assists came after Mourinho had departed the club.
Shaw put in a sensational performance against Derby, scoring one and setting up another
There is another noticeable trait to come through in Shaw since Mourinho’s departure, with the defender more often than not happy to sing the praises of new, especially younger team-mates – perhaps overly aware of what negativity can do to a player’s confidence.
Mason Greenwood has been on the receiving end of Shaw’s praise, as has new boy Bruno Fernandes. Even Williams – in direct competition for the full-back slot – has been given rave reviews.
‘He’s an amazing talent and he’s still very young, he’s still learning of course. But the same as me, I’m still learning,’ Shaw said of the teenager.
‘But we’ve showed that we can also play together and I love to play with him. We played a couple of times now and we played well together.
‘I’m learning what he does and he knows what I do, so it’s a good partnership to play in.
‘But of course we all love competition and we all love to push each other and I’ll help him as much as he can to develop into a great player that he can do.’
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has moved Shaw into the left-hand side of a back three
It is this competition that may finally have seen things click into place for Shaw at Old Trafford. There is a desire and drive to the defender that has been lacking over the past few seasons.
But it has returned, and with it, talk of a return to the England set up too ahead of Euro 2020. Talk that Shaw does not wish to dampen.
‘I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about it,’ he said. ‘But, you know, I’ve got to keep working hard, keep my head down and whatever happens happens. Of course, it’s everyone’s dream to be involved in the Euros.
‘I’m just going to keep my head down, keep working. At the end the day it’s not down to me, it’s of course down to Gareth and I’ll respect whatever he decides.’
If he does get the call, it will be yet another triumph for Shaw over adversity.
With a return to form and regular playing time, talk of an England call back have ramped up
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