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Although he can be a cold and haughty figure, José Mourinho has forged strong relationships with some of his Romelu Lukaku.
One squad member he has struggled to see eye-to-eye with since his arrival at Old Trafford, however, is Luke Shaw.
The mercurial left-back has been fighting a losing battle to win Mourinho's admiration, with the manager often publicly criticising his attitude, application and talent.
The pair's relationship has reportedly broken down beyond repair, with Shaw feeling victimised and bullied. It appears there is no way to save his Manchester United career.
Mourinho’s impatience at Shaw’s halted development is evident. The young England international, signed from Southampton for £27million in the summer of 2014, has struggled to break into the line-up at Old Trafford this term having recovered from a horrific leg break suffered in 2015.
Back in April, Mourinho castigated Shaw for a perceived lack of ambition.
“I cannot compare the way he trains, the way he commits, the focus, the ambition. I cannot compare. He is a long way behind,” said Mourinho.
And after the 2-0 FA Cup win against Brighton and Hove Albion at the weekend, Mourinho went on the attack again.
“Luke, in the first half, every time they (Brighton) went in this corridor, a cross was coming, a situation was coming so I was not happy with the performance.
“To try to improve our offensive football and be more aggressive I had to change and I decided Luke, because at least Antonio (Valencia) defensively was capable of good positions – like in one of their more dangerous movements in the second half when [Brighton striker Jurgen] Locadia made a diagonal run.”
But there are plenty of reasons to believe the United boss would be making a mistake by giving up on Shaw so soon.
World Class Potential
At only 22 Shaw’s best days are ahead of him. Though he has failed to truly grasp the opportunities he has been given at Old Trafford, there have been glimpses of his talent since he arrived from Southampton.
With his pace, direct running style, athleticism and delivery in the final third, Shaw was arguably United’s most potent attacking weapon in the early weeks of the 2015/16 season, despite playing within Louis van Gaal’s restrictive and overly cautious system.
And Mourinho even admitted earlier in the campaign that Shaw's performances, after a long spell out of the starting XI, were up there with the best full-backs around.
“Luke has done very well,” the Portuguese said in January. “He was already improving and playing well when I started playing him after that long spell without minutes.
“He is good, solid, physically much better, mentally much stronger, tactically understanding much better the game and what we need from him in the different phases and circumstances. I
“’I'm really happy. You like the transfer market and I can say in this moment, I don’t see many left-backs better than Luke Shaw.”
Shaw's form may have dipped since but there is every reason to believe he could get back to that level of performance if given another extended run with, crucially, the confidence of his manager.
He’s Still The Best Left-back At The Club
Shaw has been singled out for public criticism multiple times by Mourinho, with the first instance coming after the 3-1 loss away to Watford at Vicarage Road in September 2016.
“For the second goal, [Nordin] Amrabat's on the right side,” Mourinho said after the defeat to the Hornets, “our left back [Shaw] is 25 metres distance from him, instead of five metres.”
It was hardly Shaw’s finest hour and he struggled to work his way back into Mourinho’s thinking. But the other United players who have occupied the left side of defence have hardly set the world alight with their performances.
A rotating cast consisting of Daley Blind, Ashley Young, Matteo Darmian and Marcos Rojo have all lined up at left-back under Mourinho, with varying degrees of success in the past 18 months. None can be considered more suitable for the role than Shaw.
Furthermore, several members of the Red Devils’ squad have put in numerous poor displays at different times under Mourinho yet most seem to escape his wrath – at least to the degree to which Shaw seems to have incurred it.
Selling Him Could Strengthen A Rival
Since a potential move away from Old Trafford has been mooted, the clubs reportedly interested in Shaw are all Premier League top-four rivals.
Most notably, Tottenham Hotspur, under the auspices of Mauricio Pochettino, are thought to be the frontrunner to sign the England international.
Pochettino worked with Shaw at Southampton and will be well aware of his talent and potential. That could be hastened with want-away Spurs left-back Danny Rose reportedly a Manchester United transfer target.
Allowing a player of Shaw’s ability to join a direct rival would not represent savvy transfer market manoeuvring on United’s part.
Shaw Seems Willing To Knuckle Down
There have been several question marks over Shaw’s attitude and commitment to his craft, but unless you are privy to the inner-workings of the club, you can only judge what is said in the press and what is displayed out on the pitch.
Following a public bashing from Mourinho, in which the United boss claimed Shaw was not ready to be considered for selection ahead of the likes of Young, Blind and Darmian, Shaw reportedly requested a face-to-face meeting with the manager and was selected among the substitutes for the visit of Everton last April as a result.
Even though Mourinho was again critical of him following the Everton match, Shaw has spoken publicly to re-affirm his commitment to the club.
“With the stuff that has been going on it is hard for me to take because deep down that is not me as a person,” the young defender told the Press Association.
“Like José said, he wants to see me fighting – and I will fight to the last second because I want to be here for the club. I want to play for the manager and I want to help this team get back to the top.
“The fans have been so good to me and, like I said, especially the last sort of two days. That’s why I love them. It is easy for them to see those comments and turn on me, do you know what I mean?”
“But the passion they have always shown to me is amazing and something I don’t and won’t forget for a long time because it means a lot to me. I don’t want to let them down and I’ll fight for each and every one of the fans as well.”
United Made A Significant Investment In Shaw
By spending £27million to bring him in from Southampton – a record fee for a teenager at the time – and reportedly paying him a six-figure weekly salary, the club has invested a lot of money in Shaw.
If United were to sell him they would be highly unlikely to recoup anything close to that sum – especially as the comments Mourinho has been making will have damaged his market value.
The 20-time champions would be better served to hang on to their expensively acquired star season, putting more distance between him and his injury troubles to get a better gauge on where he is and whether he is likely to fulfil his potential.
If all goes wrong Shaw’s value will have fallen further. But the risk-reward calculation swings significantly in favour of keeping him as any signs of the form he has shown in the past would make him a prized asset once again.