Luke Shaw is not being bullied, he’s being asked to do his job – this is not the first time he’s been criticised – won’t be the last time either


Luke Shaw is a player making the headlines of late after he was hooked at half-time in the 2-0 victory over Brighton and Hove Albion in the Emirates FA Cup at Old Trafford on Saturday. Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho criticised the player after the victory, telling the media why he replaced him with Ashley Young. The fallout from that has seen many accuse the Portuguese manager of ‘bullying’ the 22-year-old, which is snowflake-like. Shaw has not earned his place at United and he will have been there four years this summer.

When Shaw arrived, just before Louis van Gaal officially became the manager of the Old Trafford in the summer of 2014, he was tipped to be the main left-back at the club for a decade or more, also do the same for England. The 19-year-old, at the time he signed, had a lot of potential but that is something some people still talk about like it is a good thing. In nearly four years, if Shaw unable to move on from having potential, to actually becoming the player that many thought he could be, only then would he be deemed a success.

Shaw has had a tough time, that double leg fracture at the start of the 2015/16 season was devastating for him and set him back a period of time. Shaw was back in training as Mourinho was made the new manager of the club in 2016, eventually coming through training that summer and making his competitive return in the FA Community Shield victory over Leicester City at Wembley. Shaw made 20 appearances that season, seeing a lot of criticism from Mourinho, which was not something new to him – something which many forget, especially when they get to be offended.

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Former Southampton youth academy director Jason Dodd stated on Monday that Shaw is a ‘fantastic player’ but needed to ‘constantly’ be pushed. There is no debate about the talent and potential of Shaw, and there never really was. The comments by Dodd show an insight into the mentality of the player, the different treatment he needs to get the best out of him, which suggests he is a high maintenance player. Reported by the BBC, Dodd said:

“He does make you pull your hair out at times. You have to try different things to get the best out of him. I think they have tried everything and they have not got through to him to get him out on the pitch and perform. Luke is one of those players where you have to keep on, you have to keep pushing him and he needs to be challenged.

“I was constantly on him. He likes it. He needs more of a cuddle, and then give him a little dig. That is how you get him going. He is a fantastic player, but if you have to question some of it – his drive, training every day and giving absolutely everything. You are at Manchester United. Mourinho expects you to put it in every session and that is an area where Luke will struggle.”

Shaw seems to not have developed as many would have hoped in his time at Manchester United and based on the comments from Jason Dodd, it could be down to the player, not Mourinho, who has been blamed for the fact the player has not made it through into the first team on a consistent basis. Granted, if a manager is not getting the best out of a player, there might be a partial amount of blame which may be directed to the particular manager, but when Shaw has been criticised by other managers, during his time at Southampton, playing for England and Mourinho’s predecessor.

Tottenham Hotspur manager and former Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino has previously criticised Shaw, suggesting that he did not work hard enough at the South Coast club. Reported by The Express, Pochettino said:

“I felt his head was not in the right place to make the sacrifices and decisions that are necessary at that age.”

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Former England manager Roy Hodgson has also warned Shaw about his fitness and applying himself to becoming a better footballer. Hodgson told Shaw in 2014 to study Ashley Cole, which could help him become a better left-back. He also suggested Pochettino was asked about Shaw, mentioning the criticism Louis van Gaal subjected the left-back to which Hodgson suggests will have been similar to what Pochettino has said to him. Reported by The Telegraph, Hodgson said:

“I think you need to speak to Mauricio Pochettino, who spent a lot of time with Luke, as they [Southampton] brought him in as a 16 or 17-year-old and threw him into the team,” Hodgson said. “I know Pochettino worked hard with him on the fitness and conditioning side of the game.

“I think a lot of Luke’s situation is purely down to the fact that he is still young, his body is changing. But I think he’s aware that the work-rate which is required does mean that he’s got to work very, very hard on that aspect of his game.

“Watching him play in the matches for Southampton which caused me to select him, watching him in the game against Costa Rica when he played, he didn’t seem to have too many problems coping with the physical side of the game. That doesn’t mean he can’t be fitter and if Louis thinks that he can get him fitter then I’m sure he will certainly have our approval.

“But I think when he [Van Gaal] talks to Pochettino, then Pochettino will say to him: ‘What you were saying to Luke Shaw and what you’ve been saying to him, is what I was actually saying to him.’

“Luke might have had it mentioned to him a couple of times during the World Cup, when we were together, by people like myself and Gary Lewin [England’s head physio]. So I think he’s been aware of it, Luke, and he will get fitter and stronger, not least of all because he’s still a very young man and his body has not yet reached its proper proportions for the level he wants to play at.”

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Louis van Gaal subjected Shaw to a lot of criticism based on his fitness. This was before the injury he sustained in the Champions League, in the season United did not play any European football. Ahead of their return to the Champions League, Shaw did conduct extra fitness sessions in Dubai in a bid to prove himself to the manager, so he did know what he needed to do and should know even more today. Van Gaal, speaking on the pre-season tour ahead of the 2014/15 season, reported by The Telegraph, said:

“Shaw is ok, but I am always a trainer-coach who sees individuals and what they need. He needs to be fit and is not very fit or fit enough to do what I want. He needs to train individually until he is fit. I cannot judge how long that will take, but I see what I see.

“I have spoken with him and we have made a programme for him. He agreed with me. How long (will he be on the programme)? That we have to see, but that I don’t know. I have heard good messages from Strud (Tony Strudwick), but we have to see.”

United teammate Ashley Young, the player who has played in Shaw’s position for the majority of the season has spoken in defence of Shaw. Not slating Mourinho, which I am sure some would like to see so they can continue their own agenda to slate the manager, said some positive words about the player, insisting that Shaw is a player who wants to do well at the club, with Young wanting to see the best of him too. It was more advise though, telling the player to get his head down and work. Speaking to BBC 5Live, reported by The Mirror, Young said:

“Obviously he’s a player that wants to do well, I want to see him doing well. It’s like all players, you just have to get your head down and work. He’s a fantastic player. He can be one of the best in the world.”

Looking at the facts here, it is obvious that the problems angle towards the player rather than the manager. To suggest Shaw is being bullied is preposterous. Shaw has a great job, one that many kids today would love to have. He gets paid a great amount of money to do what he does, and it is only right that he puts the effort in. As Mourinho has criticised him, of which he has a reason to, it shows that Shaw is not putting in the effort. With Jason Dodd saying what he has, he gave an indication in to the type of player Shaw is and most managers will not treat him how he wants to be treated.

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