Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho praised the impact of left-back Luke Shaw in Tuesday’s 2-1 win over CSKA Moscow in the UEFA Champions League, while club legend Paul Scholes questioned the defender’s lifestyle off the pitch.
Shaw has been a peripheral figure at Old Trafford this season but got his chance to impress in what was effectively a meaningless game for the Red Devils.
Afterwards, Mourinho, who has been critical of Shaw in the past, was quick to talk up his display, per BT Sport (h/t Matthew Smith of the MailOnline).
“He was waiting for quite a long time, he has been deserving for quite a long time,” he said. “It is not easy to give an opportunity to a player that does not play for many months in matches where the team really needs results. He managed to stay on for 90 minutes. I told him this is not a test, this is an opportunity to play and prove your level. Honestly I am happy with his performance.”
Mourinho added Shaw gave the side a “great contribution” and said his attacking play was “very, very good.”
Samuel Luckhurst of the Manchester Evening News was also impressed by the former Southampton man, suggesting it was his best outing for a long time:
Needs to build on tonight, but Luke Shaw is United's best left-back when he plays like he did against CSKA. His finest performance since the start of 2015-16. #mufc
— Samuel Luckhurst (@samuelluckhurst) December 6, 2017
Meanwhile, Bleacher Report’s Nick Akerman called for caution, suggesting the standard of opposition had plenty to do with Shaw’s showing:
Yes, Shaw looks good. But he's also being given acres to run into against a defence who don't want to move.
— Nick Akerman (@Nakerman) December 5, 2017
There have been many reasons for Shaw’s marginalisation at Old Trafford in recent seasons, ranging from injury misfortune and poor form. United legend Scholes told BT Sport (h/t Smith) that the left-back needs to take better care of himself off the pitch.
“It’s difficult to say as we don’t see what goes on behind the scenes,” he said. “I don’t think he lives his life as clean as he possibly should do. With his body shape, he looks like a player who needs to be playing every week. We had Wayne Rooney, who was a player if he missed a couple of games you knew he wasn’t looking after himself.”
Given Shaw has yet to start a Premier League match for United this season, there has been speculation about a transfer. It was reported by Jack Austin of The Independent that United are ready to move Shaw on for £20 million in the January transfer window.
When he’s at his best the former Southampton man can offer something different on that flank. He’s quick, strong and can deliver devilish balls into the box with his left foot. At 22, he can still make improvements to his game, too.
Even so, Bleacher Report’s Rob Blanchette doubts whether Shaw will ever be fully integrated in Mourinho’s plans:
I love Shaw, but his confidence has been the issue. I wonder if Jose will ever trust him. I hope he does. Wouldn’t be surprised to see Danny Rose arrive in town next month.
— Rob Blanchette (@_Rob_B) December 5, 2017
United don’t have many natural left-back options to call upon, with Ashley Young currently doing a decent job in the position. Alternatives for Mourinho include Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo and Matteo Darmian.
You sense Shaw is still not close to forcing his way into contention for United’s biggest matches, as he still has plenty to prove to his manager. United supporters will be hoping Tuesday’s display can be a catalyst for that process beginning in earnest.