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06th Apr 2017

Phil Neville’s latest comments about Luke Shaw are a step too far

Neville is out of line...

Robert Redmond

Phil Neville has had another go at Luke Shaw.

Jose Mourinho has taken more shots at Shaw over the past few weeks than his Manchester United team have had on goal in the same period, and Neville isn’t far behind.

He said the left-back should be “embarrassed” that his manager is questioning his professionalism, dedication and fitness, and has now went a step further.

It could be argued that Neville should apologise to Shaw, after saying there “must be something fundamentally wrong” with him as he has seemingly yet to heed Mourinho’s warnings.

“I know he’s suffered an injury but there must be something fundamentally wrong if the manager is questioning your attitude, training performances, desire,” Neville told the BBC.

Maybe Mourinho is right. Maybe Shaw is lazy and isn’t trying in training. However, there’s no way to know this with any certainty as, other than the United players and staff, we’re not privy to the team’s training sessions.

Therefore, we have to take Mourinho’s word at face value if we’re to follow his narrative that Shaw is a brainless, lazy player with no dedication to his profession.

And Mourinho has proven that his word, in this type of scenario, isn’t worth much.

In his career, the former Chelsea manager has fallen out with players at every single club.

From Iker Casillas to Sergio Ramos, Arjen Robben to Romelu Lukaku, Kevin de Bruyne to Eden Hazard. It can’t be that all of these players were wrong and Mourinho is right.

When he was Real Madrid manager, Mourinho reportedly told winger Pedro Leon that:

“Even if the team plane crashed without him on it and he was the only man available, he still would not play the following week.”

This bullying language is reminiscent of Mourinho’s treatment of Shaw. Who said the 21-year-old “has to change his football brain.”

With a track record like this, it’s worrying that Neville accepts Mourinho’s criticism of Shaw without questioning it.

“You think maybe this is the last throw of the dice from Jose to try and get something out of Luke Shaw that he knows is in there,” the former United defender continued.

“Jose’s probably tried this behind closed doors and this is the last throw of the dice. To speak poorly about one of his own players, he must be absolutely at his wits end.”

No Phil, it doesn’t prove he’s at his “wits end”. He has done this countless times before and he’ll continue to do it. He doesn’t trust certain players, and picks on introverts, and flair players.

He burns them out, saps them of their creative energy and turns them into de-facto full-backs. There always has to be an enemy and scapegoat with Mourinho, and he’s found that in Shaw.

The only thing Mourinho’s comments prove without any doubt is that he’s forcing Shaw out. And that Phil Neville speaks like he’s a member of cult.

He was clearly brought up not to question authority, and while that ensured he thrived under Sir Alex Ferguson, it doesn’t help his punditry career.

It’s like earlier in the season, when Neville said Wayne Rooney must start for United – regardless of his form or alternative players. He offered no reason why, just that Rooney has to play because he’s Wayne Rooney – the captain of Manchester United and England.

Neville is way out of line to say that there’s something “fundamentally wrong” with Shaw. It goes beyond questioning his professionalism.

He can’t say with any certainty that Mourinho is telling the truth about Shaw, so to follow his narrative, and insult Shaw, isn’t right.

Shaw should be given the benefit of the doubt. Mourinho’s predecessor, Louis van Gaal, questioned his fitness and after a patchy first season. But Shaw was then brilliant in the opening six weeks of the 2015/16 season.

Then his leg was snapped in two and he missed a year of football. He reportedly still wakes up with pains in his leg, and as any footballer will know, one injury can lead to other injuries.

This season was always going to be about him finding his feet again. He’s clearly very talented, and has great potential. To discard him now would be a sin.

Shaw is also only 21-years-old, and has another decade of football, at least, ahead of him.

However, Mourinho will more than likely move him on in the summer, and Neville will then probably say again that it proves that there’s “something fundamentally wrong” with Shaw.

If this happens, it’ll arguably say more about Mourinho and Neville, than it will Shaw.

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