When Luke Shaw arrived at Manchester United for £30m in the summer of 2014, the most expensive teenager in the world at the time, there were only positive things to say about the transfer.
The former Southampton left-back enjoyed a brilliant season on the South Coast the year before and had even played two blinding games against the Red Devils.
And for a club of Man United’s stature, the price tag was not a fortune by any stretch of the imagination.
Shaw thought he had found a fan in Jose
There was a reason Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea attempted to hijack the deal before the contracts were signed – the Portuguese manager was a huge admirer.
At just 19-years-old, it was Shaw’s willingness to bomb forward and overlap his left-sided midfielder that turned his critics into plaudits.
Shaw had also shown great defensive nous, and his pace to track back and salvage a situation was impressive.
However, the precocious youngster echoed Louis Van Gaal’s comments about underestimating the step up from Southampton to Manchester United.
Shaw said: “I didn’t come into United thinking it’s going to be much harder and that’s something I made a mistake on.
“I thought it was just going to be the same but United is the biggest club in the world so it’s something that is going to push me on.”
Unfortunately for the left-back, who came into the 2015-16 season as one of Manchester United’s most attacking players, he suffered a horrendous leg-break in September which ruled him out for the rest of the season.
Unable to train for several months, he was forced to bide his time. Mentally, it is another story and one that can plague the rest of a professional athlete’s career.
Wind forward to the start of this season and it was quite evident upon his return that Shaw was still feeling fragile.
Doubts creep in and digs follow
Naturally, Shaw needed time to re-adjust to the rigours of top-flight football. But as the weeks went on, it appeared to be more of a mental block than a physical one.
By October 29, he had only featured in seven Premier League games, Shaw had found himself out of the first-team for five months.
And the reasons for that soon became clear. Mourinho had begun to openly question Shaw’s work rate and mentality.
“There is a difference between the brave, who want to play at any cost, and the ones for whom a little pain can make a difference,” he said in early November.
“If I were to speak with the many great football people of this team, they will say they played many times without being 100%.”
It took until March of this year for Mourinho to give the England international another chance to impress and show that he had taken his manager’s words on board.
But as United were struggling to find the back of the net against Bournemouth, he was substituted after 70 minutes.
Where does Shaw go from here?
It’s a strange situation.
At this point in time, Manchester United don’t have an alternative left-back capable of nailing down the position. Shaw should be making the jersey his. But for some reason or another, there is always a stumbling block.
Before LVG’s pre-season in his last season in charge, Shaw and Adnan Januzaj enrolled in a training camp in Dubai to get up to speed. No doubting his commitment there but it’s the current Old Trafford incumbent who he’s yet to convince.
Let’s compare Shaw’s alleged attitude of not playing at any cost, and that of team-mate Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The Swedish superstar once said in an interview that he ‘would die [on the pitch] for Mourinho’,
Now, that’s obviously metaphorical, but that type of loyalty and commitment is what the Portuguese demands.
This is the core principle that he is looking for from his players.
It’s easy to forget that the Southampton academy graduate is still only 21-years-old. For a defender, Shaw still has plenty of time in his career to show he can reach the levels his potential initially showed.
England manager Gareth Southgate has afforded the youngster a shot in the arm by calling him up for the friendly against Germany and qualifier against Lithuania.
He gained some valuable game time in the former contest and will hope to use that as a springboard for the future.
However, for Shaw’s career at Man United, it’s very worrying times. If he does not improve drastically from now until the end of the season, club officials will not be against selling a former Golden Boy nominee.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing