Luke Shaw, a defender for Man United, is getting closer to returning from injury, but it’s possible that he’ll play a different position than usual.
Luke Shaw used “his body with my brain,” as Jose Mourinho memorably stated at a remarkable 2017 press conference.
“At age 21, one should possess a more advanced comprehension. After a goalless draw with Everton at Old Trafford, a frustrated Mourinho continued, “He has a future here, but Manchester United can’t wait.”
Shaw’s future was cast into doubt after Mourinho questioned his dedication and focus and kept him out of the starting lineup in the last match against West Brom.
Shaw appeared destined to depart United when Mourinho took over, but he made it through that time, and given the difficulties he’s endured both physically and mentally, overcoming adversity has been a recurring theme in his career.
The horrific double leg fracture Shaw suffered against PSV Eindhoven in 2015 would curtail most players’ ability and it’s remarkable he’s been able to enjoy the best football of his career since returning from that injury.
It seems hyperbolic but Shaw was regarded by many as the best left-back in the world in the 2020/21 season and although his form dipped in the following campaign, he got back to his best playing for Erik ten Hag.
Shaw was exceptional last season and he made an effortless transition to playing at centre-back in December when he was asked to play there, with Lisandro Martinez absent after World Cup glory.
“We’ve got a lot of world-class centre-backs here, but I’m not going to lie I’ve been really enjoying it. It’s something very different and something I’ve not experienced before,” Shaw said after his second game in that role.
“I’ve played at centre-back but in a three and it is totally different. The manager has needed me to play there and I’m happy to play wherever, as long as I’m on that pitch. It always helps when you’ve got someone next to me like Varane.”
Mourinho once accused Shaw of lacking positional understanding and that couldn’t be further from the truth now, as he demonstrated intelligence and quality to play on the left side of central defence.
Although there are many comments from Mourinho that time has looked fondly on, his lengthy criticism of Shaw cannot be included and the player will have taken satisfaction in proving his former manager wrong.
Shaw played over 10 games at centre-back last season, including the 2-1 win over Manchester City at Old Trafford in January and the enthralling 2-2 draw against Barcelona at Camp Nou a few weeks later in February.
It was a surprise to see Shaw play in a two-man axis for the first time against Nottingham Forest on December 27, but supporters were wondering why he hadn’t been used there sooner by the end of the season.