Luke Shaw’s prolonged period in the wilderness has caused a bit of a stir amongst the Manchester United faithful, who are slightly fearful of Jose Mourinho losing his patience with the former Southampton defender.
Perhaps the biggest shock when the Red Devils’ team was announced against Ewood Park, was the absence of Shaw’s name from the starting XI for the sixth consecutive line-up – Shaw’s last appearance in a United shirt coming in the club’s 4-0 pistol-whipping of Wigan Athletic at Old Trafford.
The former Saints man was widely expected to be given a much-fancied crack of the whip by Jose Mourinho against a Blackburn side languishing just one point above the foot of the Championship table. To their disappointment and surprise, Mourinho persevered with Matteo Darmian at left-back (of all people), with Ashley Young (yes, you read that right) occupying the right-back spot. He has also been left out of United’s Europa League squad to face Saint Etienne.
Whatever Mourinho doesn't see in Luke Shaw, he is a better left-back than Darmian..
— Mark Ogden (@MarkOgden_) February 19, 2017
Many fans have been left scratching their heads in an attempt to figure out what really is the reason behind Shaw being continuously overlooked. While some are of the opinion that the 21-year-old may not be showing the kind of hunger and desire in training that Mourinho might want him to exhibit, certain members of the press argue that Shaw is yet to get to grips with the tactical nuances that the typical Mourinho full-back needs to master. When grilled about why Shaw has been missing from United’s match day squads in spite of being fit, this is what Mourinho had to say:
“At the moment he is behind the others. Potentially he has many things that I like but potential is different to the pitch. He has to work hard like Mkhitaryan did for an extended period of time.”
Quite evidently, looks like a masterplan that Mourinho has in place for reinvigorating the Englishman like he’s done with teammates Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Anthony Martial.
Everyone knows that since his arrival at the club, Mourinho has been testing the character and mettle of all his squad members – be it publicly or privately, in an attempt to establish an unshakeable faith in his methods.
As many players who have previously played under him would testify – you either get on the bus with him, or you’re off.
The first beneficiary of Mourinho’s tough-love approach was Mkhitaryan. The Armenian international disappeared from the first-team fold for about three months after a detestable half of football in the Manchester derby. On being asked as to why the former Borussia Dortmund man had been missing from the team, Mourinho said that Mkhitaryan needed time to adapt to the pace of the English game and get more acquainted with the tactical side of what he requires from him. The results, quite apparently, are there for all to see.
However, since his reinstatement into the starting eleven, Mkhitaryan has arguably been one of United’s most supreme attackers, causing opposition’s defences problems with his immense dribbling skills and impeccable eye for an incisive pass.
— EC7® (@cantonesque7) February 12, 2017
Something similar happened with Martial, wherein he was rotated in and out of the team in order to fully understand what his manager wants from him. Like Mkhitaryan, Martial too has returned a better player and has been in scintillating form ever since.
As logic suggests, Mourinho is probably trying to do something similar with Shaw, given that he’s publicly stated that the full-back’s long term future is with United.
By keeping him out of the team and making him fight tooth-and-nail for his place in the starting eleven, Mourinho is remoulding Shaw’s character and making sure that he regains his lost mental strength, determination and self-belief. The double leg-break which he suffered against PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League took a lot out of the left-back.
His confidence had been shattered, mental strength ravaged and self-belief was nethermost. The amount of emotional trauma that this kind of injury causes is almost unimaginable to outsiders. Imagine the prospect of having a ridiculously promising career at one of the biggest clubs in world football being snatched away from you for no fault of yours.
As someone who has coached exceptional teams in multiple countries and won titles everywhere he’s been, Mourinho understands Shaw’s situation better than anybody else can. He knows for a fact that the Englishman needs to have his confidence and mental strength re-established. It is something Mourinho has been known for throughout his career – dismantling a player completely and then calmly fostering him into something stronger than anybody could’ve envisaged – both mentally and physically.
At only 21 years of age, Shaw has a decade or so of his best football ahead of him. In such a situation, going through a mental and physical rehabilitation for one season under a coach like Mourinho, who is known for how well he grooms defenders to be the best in the business will only benefit him in the long run. All he needs to do is push harder and most importantly, remain patient and believe in his intrinsic abilities.
Is Luke Shaw on his way to joining the list of the worst players that Jose Mourinho has ever managed?