Although he can be a cold and haughty figure, José Mourinho has forged strong relationships with some of his Manchester United players, such as Marouane Fellaini, Nemanja Matić and Romelu Lukaku for example.
One squad member he has struggled to see eye-to-eye with, however, is Luke Shaw.
The mercurial left-back has seemingly been fighting a losing battle to win back Mourinho’s admiration after the manager publicly criticised his attitude and application, raising major question marks over his future.
Now the pair’s relationship has reportedly broken down beyond repair, with Shaw believing that there is no way back into the first team at Old Trafford.
Shaw was part of United’s pre-season tour of the United States but was given his own personalised training regime as he recovered from an ankle injury.
However, despite regaining his fitness, Shaw has not convinced Mourinho of his first-team potential and has only made two appearances this season, both of which came as a substitute in the Carabao Cup.
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.
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.
Reports now indicate that the pair are not on speaking terms and that Shaw is seriously exploring a potential exit from Old Trafford as he looks to reignite his career.
But there are plenty of reasons to believe that the United boss would be making a mistake by giving up on Shaw so soon.
World Class Potential
Still only 22, Shaw’s best days are ahead of him. Though he has failed to truly grasp the opportunities he was given last season, the form he showed at the beginning of the previous campaign, before injury ruled him out, showed glimpses of the player he can become.
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 2015/16, despite playing within Louis van Gaal’s restrictive and overly cautious system.
He may not have quite hit the same heights since but there is every reason to believe he could get back to that level of performance if given an 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 last September.
“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. 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 regulars. Most notably, Tottenham Hotspur, under the auspices of Mauricio Pochettino, are thought to be a likely interested party.
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 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 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 for at least another 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.