Luke Shaw has not played for Manchester United since the 2-1 defeat away to Fenerbahçe in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday 3rd November 2016. He was subsequently dropped for the Premier League match away to Swansea City the following Sunday, also not being called up for England for their FIFA World Cup qualification victory over Scotland and the friendly against Spain, in which the sides drew 2-2, despite England having a 2-0 lead heading into the last five minutes of the match. Shaw seems to have lost his place and questions are being asked about his future at the Old Trafford club. For the second match in a row, Matteo Darmian was preferred at left-back over Shaw, which could suggest a problem with him playing in this Manchester United side. Jose Mourinho has confirmed the player was ready to play and that he had no problem with him, which is similar to the situation of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who despite being fit, just seems to not get any game time, in the Premier League at least.
Shaw suffered a devastating double leg fracture last season in the first UEFA Champions League group stage match against PSV Eindhoven, recovering on the sidelines for the remainder of the season, only returning to United in pre-season, playing against Wigan Athletic in Mourinho’s first match leading the club. Shaw started to progress in pre-season, getting over his injury nightmare, but it would take longer to get the confidence back, as his double leg fracture would play on his mind, especially going into tackles and the risk of being tackled. Perhaps that on his mind is playing with his confidence and affecting his game? Mourinho, speaking at his press conference ahead of the visit of Arsenal, a match Shaw was dropped for, again, resulting in a 1-1 draw, said:
“He worked well in this period where we had a very small group, which is not the best [situation], but he worked really well. He is ready to play and I don’t have any problem with him. I am not saying that he plays or he doesn’t play tomorrow, I am just saying that he is my player, a player with potential, but like every young player he has little problems and things he needs to learn and to improve on. He is a player that has my confidence and will play in this period of many matches – for sure.”
Shaw seems to be under some pressure to get himself back into the first team, pressure which could see other options looked into; one of those is Joe Riley, a 19-year-old defender currently playing in Nicky Butt’s U23 squad, but he was absent for the 2-0 defeat to Sunderland at tat level on Monday evening, suggesting that Jose Mourinho could opt to have him involved in his squad, although this may not be an option for Thursday nights match at Old Trafford against Feyenoord as he’s not yet been added to the squad for the UEFA Europa League, but he would not need to be added for the Premier League or even the EFL Cup, with United playing West Ham United twice in four days on Sunday and next Wednesday, both at Old Trafford. Cameron Borthwick-Jackson is an option too, although he is currently on loan with Wolverhampton Wanderers, Mourinho could test him when he returns to the club, as he did well covering for Shaw last season during his injury.
United have been linked to Bayern Munich’s Austria left-back David Alaba too, whether this is a true interest in the player, or the fact United have scouted Austria twice during the last international break, which in effect could be scouts looking into any player on the pitch, or even the bench, but Alaba seems to be the one reported in the media. Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has interest in his former player too, which puts United head to head with their local rivals and noisy neighbours for the services of Alaba, should he opt to leave Bayern Munich. That could force Shaw to get back to his best and impress the manager, holding his position as his own and helping United get back to winning ways and try and get something from this season. Shaw is a good player, or at least he was before his devastating double leg fracture just 14 months ago. He may need time to get over the mental damage caused, but he’s come this far, he should not give up now.