Thanks to Paul Pogba, Instagram has become a transfer window tool for players to tease followers and fuel speculation as they post cryptic messages juxtaposed with saturated pictures, usually one of them bathed in sunshine in one of the globe’s warmer climates.
So far this summer the most noteworthy post by a prospective or current Manchester United player was Luke Shaw’s at the weekend. The defender attended Phil Jones’ wedding with his partner and uploaded a cosy snapshot of the pair while congratulating Jones and his new wife.
Followers did not need to scan through the comments to notice how much leaner Shaw appeared. The picture emerged just days after M.E.N. Sport revealed Shaw had already returned to United’s Carrington training complex to continue his rehabilitation from the foot injury sustained against Swansea on April 30. The intent is impressive.
And the irony is for such an injury-plagued player Shaw’s most recent knock might have galvanised his United career. It was understood nearly four months ago Jose Mourinho had no intention of selling Shaw and planned on installing him as his first-choice left-back next season and the outlook has not altered in spite of Mourinho rebuking Shaw so scathingly at a press conference a month later. Shaw also survived Mourinho’s gripe with him speaking to Bournemouth defender Tyrone Mings after an ill-tempered first-half in March.
Shaw’s most recent lay-off could have killed his United career but he has defied the pessimism which surrounded that ninth-minute withdrawal versus Swansea to continue endearing himself to his manager through application. Shaw has taken stock of his situation; a year left on his contract and way down the England pecking order after 17 club starts in a campaign his manager questioned his fitness, attitude and ambition. Something had to change.
“I’m going to prove you wrong,” Shaw told Mourinho at The Lowry during that clear-the-air meeting in early April. One of the instigators behind Shaw’s improved attitude is understood to be his girlfriend, a positive influence who advised he change his living arrangements from house-sharing with friends. Shaw is also believed to have hired a personal trainer to work with him away from United’s Carrington training complex.
“I’ve changed my lifestyle massively, with eating stuff and who I live with,” Shaw said. “It’s changed now and at times when you’re a young kid I think you’ve got to be more professional.”
Ability was never a concern with Shaw but he has started to complement it with the desired attitude. That might be why Mourinho, who has reportedly decided on taking Shaw to the United States despite his limited availability, has offered him a reprieve after a 17th injury in three years at United.
The Anderlecht Europa League quarter-final second leg was a pivotal moment as United players braced themselves for 30 minutes of extra-time.
Mourinho said: “I had Ashley Young ready to come and he [Shaw] told me: ‘I’m going to play these 30 minutes with cramps, no problem, if you have to make a change in another position, do it because I’m ready for it.’
“These kind of things are the things that make me trust the players.” Shaw has started gaining his manager’s trust and continued doing so while a member of the Europa League final ‘Crutch Crew’.
“They were playing behind the bench shouting, they were doing everything,” Mourinho beamed. Shaw only started four European ties but merited his winner’s medal.
Mourinho has not prioritised signing a left-back, either. Shaw’s determination and readiness to adapt to his manager’s demands, as well as Matteo Darmian’s solid outings in his absence, have eased United’s need for a left-back and they will not vie with City for Monaco’s marauding Benjamin Mendy.
Celtic’s Kieran Tierney, 20, has been scouted by United but the club would not regard him as an automatic starter if he did move south of the border this summer. Bayern Munich’s unattainable David Alaba was briefly considered over seven months ago.
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