Luke Shaw and Memphis Depay are two players that have taken a fairly similar track at Old Trafford thus far. Although Shaw is now into his third season in real terms, the horrendous injury he suffered against PSV Eindhoven last season cut his second term at the club painfully short. It would be fair to grant him a reprieve and offer this season as his second in terms of game time. The similarities lie within their first seasons, both arrived at Manchester United with potential for big things, a buzz around them that neither fulfilled in their debut seasons under Louis van Gaal. The difference is the reaction from fans, many want Memphis sold, no one called for Shaw to be exiled.
And as disappointing, as Memphis was last season, the performances of Shaw two years ago were no worse. But cast your mind back to the beginning of last year, and the partnership they both had down the left-hand side. It was starting to blossom. Spurred on by the massive improvements Shaw had experienced over the summer, the friendship off the pitch (evident in the social media post recently from Memphis about Shaw) looked to be providing the rewards on the pitch. And though Memphis still wasn’t setting the world alight, fans were far more encouraged by him than than they ended up being. The impact of Shaw’s horrific leg break was not just felt by the player himself, his partner down that wing felt it too and that is often overlooked.
Friendships off the pitch often slide under the radar simply because you and I don’t know about them. But their importance is massive in forming a team capable of being successful. The best example that springs straight to mind is Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke, the partnership that fired United to a historic treble and who were also best of friends in their non-playing lives. The likelihood of this modern-day bromance may not help United to the treble, but having that security and consistency down one flank takes all the pressure off the other. It also gives plenty of hope that both can go from strength to strength once more and start to realise the potential they are said to possess.
The possible downfall of this union comes twofold. No one knows exactly how Shaw will recover from his injury – a leg break like the one he suffered is a major blow to anybody regardless of age, players don’t often come back what they were before. And there are the concerns over Memphis and whether he is cut out for English football. A failure to adapt once again will do nothing to convince either the manager or the fans he is worthy of adorning the famous red shirt. But the negatives shouldn’t be focused on, they are always present irrespective of the players they concern and these two have age on their side and now a manager more than capable of getting the best out of them. You can’t tell for sure, and in five months time I could be writing about how badly it has gone, but casting my mind back to late 2015 is keeping the faith alive.