Reaction of England players as Luke Shaw was subbed off says it all
On Jose Mourinho's new playground, his former player/play-thing ran amok
For all the talk of Gareth Southgate's each and every decision being vindicated, it is still odd to think of him selecting right-back Kieran Trippier ahead of Luke Shaw for the Euro 2020 opener against Croatia.
The Manchester United defender got his chance against Scotland and was then scolded, by voices outside the England camp, for not bombing forward.
Shaw was more solid than spectacular in that draw with the Scots. He has been spectacular ever since.
Against the Czech Republic and Germany, he marauded forward and created chances. He ran overlaps. He came up with a big assist. All that and he locked down his side of the pitch, looking solid over on the left-hand side with club teammate Harry Maguire.
At the Stadio Olimpico - where José Mourinho will manage Roma in Serie A next season - Shaw went up another level and played a huge part in his side defeating Ukraine to reach the semi-final.
Mourinho was incredibly tough on the former Southampton left-back during his tenure at United, often accusing him of being unfit and not having the nous to be a top defender. Even when Shaw would play well under Mourinho, the Portuguese would take credit for personally guiding him through games from the sidelines.
Shaw was out of the England picture for long stretches, under Gareth Southgate. Even when he started to put in consistently strong performances for United, the struggled to break back into the international picture.
Eventually, Southgate could no longer ignore him. Shaw had a fine season with United and came into Euro 2020 as the presumptive starting left-back. Again, Southgate took his time but ultimately made the right call.
Against Ukraine, while looking defensively solid again, he cropped up with big plays in big moments.
Luke shaw… sensational performance!!!!!
— Micah Richards (@MicahRichards) July 3, 2021
For two of England's goals - Harry Maguire's header and Harry Kane's second - Shaw's deliveries into the box were so good that scoring was made easy.
Shaw now has three assists at Euro 2020 [joint second] and is just one behind top creator Steven Zuber of Switzerland. He has created eight goal-scoring chances for England too - no other player in that star-studded squad has come close.
If you needed to know anything about what his teammates thought of Shaw, you only needed to look at their reaction when he was subbed off, after 63 minutes and with England 4-0 up.
Maguire, Kane, Raheem Sterling and Kalvin Phillips all approached him as he jogged off. Jordan Henderson showed a nice burst of pace to do likewise.
Mobbed by five of his teammates and the back slapped off him, he was finally delivering on the promise that so many saw in him, back in February 2014, when he made his senior England debut, at 18.
Mourinho is on punditry duty for this tournament, so it will be fascinating to see if he offers Shaw and crumbs of comfort.
If he does or doesn't, Shaw is winning the war right now.