Can four managers all be wrong about one specific thing?
Luke Shaw’s career at Manchester United looks to be over after he was left out of Jose Mourinho’s squad for Saturday’s scoreless draw against West Brom, with the Portuguese questioning the player’s attitude after the game.
“The way he trains, the way he commits, the focus, the ambition, I cannot compare (to Young, Darmian and Blind). He’s a long way behind,” said the United manager.
Given the fact that Shaw suffered an horrific leg break last season against PSV Eindhoven when he was in the form of his life for United, many feel that Mourinho’s stance on the former Southampton left-back is more than a bit harsh.
Shaw has struggled to re-establish himself at United under the Portuguese and has not played since the 1-1 draw against Bournemouth.
Mourinho says there is no chance of him being named on the bench for the clash against Everton on Tuesday night, despite a number of injuries and suspensions in the United ranks, and this is not the first time that Shaw’s commitment has been questioned.
Shaw became English football’s most expensive teenager when he left the Saints for United in the summer of 2014, but just a month after that move – in July – his then manager Louis van Gaal admitted he was not fit for purpose.
“Shaw is ok, but I am always a trainer-coach who sees individuals and what they need,” Van Gaal said at the time. “He needs to be fit and is not very fit or fit enough to do what I want.
“He needs to train individually until he is fit. I cannot judge how long that will take, but I see what I see.
“I have spoken with him and we have made a programme for him. He agreed with me.
“How long (will he be on the programme)? That we have to see, but that I don’t know.
“I have heard good messages from Strud (Tony Strudwick), but we have to see.”
Two other managers who worked with Shaw – Roy Hodgson and Mauricio Pochettino – had also voiced concerns that the 21-year-old’s attitude was not where it should.
Speaking just a month after van Gaal, in August 2014, Hodgson explained the concerns he had over Shaw’s fitness while he was with the England and claimed that Pochettino, who had managed the youngster at Southampton, had also struggled to keep the defender from losing focus.
“I think you need to speak to Mauricio Pochettino, who spent a lot of time with Luke, as they [Southampton] brought him in as a 16 or 17-year-old and threw him into the team,” Hodgson said. “I know Pochettino worked hard with him on the fitness and conditioning side of the game.
“I think a lot of Luke’s situation is purely down to the fact that he is still young, his body is changing. But I think he’s aware that the work-rate which is required does mean that he’s got to work very, very hard on that aspect of his game.
“Watching him play in the matches for Southampton which caused me to select him, watching him in the game against Costa Rica when he played, he didn’t seem to have too many problems coping with the physical side of the game. That doesn’t mean he can’t be fitter and if Louis thinks that he can get him fitter then I’m sure he will certainly have our approval.
“But I think when he [Van Gaal] talks to Pochettino, then Pochettino will say to him: ‘What you were saying to Luke Shaw and what you’ve been saying to him, is what I was actually saying to him.’
There is no doubt that Shaw is his country’s most naturally talented left-back, the natural successor to Ashley Cole in the long terms, and given his age would command a fee close to the £27m that United paid for him three years ago.
However, potential buyers will know that this is not a case of Mourinho failing to utilise the best resources open to him. Something must change in Shaw’s attitude to hard work to bring out the player United fans were only getting to know before that horrendous injury in September 2015.
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