On an unfortunate night in September 2015 in Eindhoven, Hector Moreno caught the standing leg of a surging Luke Shaw and brought the 20-year-old down. Shaw suffered a double leg fracture on his right leg. “I was really close to losing my leg but I didn’t know that until six months later when the doctor told me” Shaw missed 11 months of football after that horrific injury. He even considered retiring from professional football during this period.
“After the leg break it was a very tough time,” he said. “I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t sometimes thought about stopping playing football [during rehabilitation].”
Shaw had had an excellent start to the season before his injury, but he was now back in the squad a season later unable to even make the bench. Despite the fact that Manchester United spectacularly failed to have a proper left back in the starting 11 for 2 full seasons, Luke Shaw found himself unable to break into the first team. His season off the field also saw a change at the helm; Louis van Gaal had made way for Jose Mourinho. Shaw’s image of a player struggling with fitness and work ethic did not help his case either. A total of 38 appearances in 2 years following the injury isn’t the only reason why it hasn’t been smooth sailing for Shaw at United. There has been the occasional excellent performance, but his lack of consistency is one among the many things his manager has publicly called him out for. Even as recent as January, Jose was singling him out for a less than good performance. While one could argue Shaw never got an extended run in the team to impress, it stands to reason that given he didn’t impress when he did get a run, Mourinho can’t really be blamed.
Shaw’s career at United looked all but over at the end of 2017/18 season. He had just gone a season playing the second choice to a 32-year-old former winger in the form of Ashley Young (who to his credit, punched above his weight to even get a World Cup call-up after an excellent season). His manager had gone so far as to suggest that he did not have the ‘personality’ or ‘class’ to play for United. And his fitness had repeatedly been called into question throughout the season.
While England went on a dream run in the World Cup without him, Luke Shaw was in a personal pre-season programme in Dubai, working on his fitness. Mourinho gets a lot of criticism for the way he ‘manages’ his players but Luke Shaw says “ I had a chat with the manager before the season and he said he wanted me to stay and fight for my place, and that motivated me a lot.” Two full seasons of disappointment later Mourinho has still placed his trust in the 23-year-old for what is most probably his make-or-break season. Luke Shaw has started off right, being United’s best player by a long stretch in the first month of the season. He’s been singled out by the manager again in the past month, this time in praise; “I was particularly pleased [with him],” Mourinho said. “I told him you cannot play better than you did… the kid has to know that he has had three very good matches in the Premier League and today he was very good. I am very happy with him.”
Of course, this is only the beginning. Four excellent games do not make a season. But with his first England call-up in over 18 months Shaw really couldn’t be doing any better right now. This might just be square one but as Shaw and his fans will tell you, ‘we’ll gladly start from square one and take it one game at a time.’