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In Focus: Luke a Shaw thing for much-improved United
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Dan Fitch
Luke Shaw notched a rare goal for Manchester United against Bournemouth
Luke Shaw notched a rare goal for Manchester United against Bournemouth

Luke Shaw has shown both his versatility and maturity for Manchester United since the club season returned. 

The England left-back demonstrated his ability in central defence, before switching back to his favoured role with great effect in the midweek victory against Bournemouth. 

This followed Shaw’s assured performances for the national team at the World Cup, where he was an ever-present for Gareth Southgate’s side. 

With Shaw now a trusted senior player for both club and country, we take a look back at a career that has not always gone to plan.

Positional shift

When United returned to action with a Carabao Cup tie against Burnley, manager Erik ten Hag faced something of a crisis at centre-back. 

With Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane having only just played in the World Cup final and Harry Maguire unwell, Ten Hag was short on numbers. 

Shaw volunteered to fill the role, but the Dutch coach decided to start with him on the bench and play Casemiro in central defence. 

In the first Premier League match back against Nottingham Forest, Shaw was selected to play as a left-sided centre-back alongside Varane and helped to keep a clean sheet in a 3-0 win. 

He then fulfilled the same role in the 1-0 away victory at Wolves. Ten Hag explained his decision to start with Shaw in the latter game, when he had both Victor Lindelof and Maguire on the bench.

Ten Hag, 52, said: "You look at the game plan, the way we had to approach Wolves, and I thought it was the best match with Rapha and Luke.

"Especially we knew the speed of Wolves from the right side and we could cover that because we wanted to attack over the left side with our offensive game from Tyrell Malacia."

Goalscoring prowess

Luke Shaw scored in the Euro 2020 final for England
Luke Shaw scored in the Euro 2020 final for England

Having a manager show such faith in Shaw’s defensive capabilities is a refreshing change to what he has experienced for much of his time at Old Trafford.

Indeed, it took a while for the Southampton academy graduate to win Ten Hag’s trust. Shaw was substituted at half-time in the heavy early-season defeat at Brentford and replaced by new signing Malacia. 

It took until October for Shaw to return to the starting XI and he helped the Red Devils to a 2-1 win at Everton. He has played in every Premier League match since, as United have climbed up to fourth place in the table. 

In his latest appearance, the 27-year-old found the net against Bournemouth, as he ghosted into a central position within the penalty area and slotted home a cross from the right with his weaker foot. 

It was only his fourth goal for United, in his 232nd game for the club. 

When you consider that Shaw has scored three times in 28 England appearances, including the Euro 2020 final, it would seem that this is an area where Ten Hag could get more from his No23.

Mourinho admission

Shaw is now in his ninth season at Old Trafford, having arrived at the club from Saints in 2014 for £30million — at the time the largest amount paid for a teenager. 

There was a period when it seemed unlikely that he would have such a lengthy spell at Old Trafford, with Shaw having a frosty relationship with former manager Jose Mourinho during the Portuguese coach's reign.

Mourinho was critical of Shaw’s tactical awareness, fitness, mentality and work ethic. He has since questioned his own approach to dealing with the defender’s problems. 

Now at Roma, the Portuguese tactician said: "I always tried to find what I considered to be the weakness of the player and sometimes I’m successful, other times I’m not. Other times I can create empathy with the player and get the best out of them. 

"Other times the best way to get the best out of them is not to create empathy and is to try to create some friction and to put pressure on the player. Maybe I was too harsh with him and he was not ready for that."

Luke Shaw and Jose Mourinho had a troubled relationship
Luke Shaw and Jose Mourinho had a troubled relationship

Maturity levels

Shaw struggled for opportunities under Mourinho, but established himself under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and has now done so again since Ten Hag took charge. 

There is no doubt that the defender had problems with maturity and discipline. He was once famously late for training at United and explained to Mourinho that it was because his mother had overslept and not woken him on time. 

Shaw seems to have grown up since then and these days has two children of his own with his long-term partner. 

With his maturity levels having caught up with his undoubted talent, Shaw could be entering the best years of his career. Ten Hag clearly trusts him and he is now England’s first-choice left-back. 

United’s hefty investment did not always look shrewd, but over the long term it has proven to be a bargain.


Luke ShawManchester UnitedPremier LeagueFA Cup
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