Jose Mourinho has heaped praise on Luke Shaw following the Englishman’s resurgence at Manchester United, noting that there weren’t many better left-backs than him at the moment.
Shaw attracted public criticism from Mourinho last April for his inadequate work rate and it was thought by many earlier this season that the 22-year-old, still on the periphery of his manager’s set-up, would leave the club in January.
But he has responded in empathic fashion since December, making nine appearances in total and impressing with his diligent, energetic approach on the left.
And Mourinho, speaking at a press conference ahead of the clash with Burnley, was quick to praise Shaw for turning his fortunes at Old Trafford around.
“Luke [has done] very well,” he said. “He was already improving and playing well when I started playing him after that long spell without minutes.”
“I remember the first time he played [in the] Champions League [against CSKA Moscow] he was coming step by step and now, with a good run of matches and also with continuity and playing like he did, for example against Everton [on New Year’s Day] two days after a previous match [against Southampton].
“[He was] good, solid, physically much better, mentally much stronger, tactically understanding much better the game and what we need from him in the different phases and circumstances. I’m really happy. You like the transfer market and I can say in this moment, I don’t see many left-backs better than Luke Shaw.”
I was among the many who, back in November, saw no future for Shaw at this club. It had reached a point where the Englishman had only made 32 Premier League appearances in three and a half years, still firmly ostracised from Mourinho’s set-up. He didn’t seem to trust a player who, time and time again, had disappeared due to injury or attitudinal problems even before his arrival.
But his gritty resurgence over the last month serves as a reminder of just how emphatically narratives can be reversed and careers turned around in this game. He has done what many believed he couldn’t and found some true inner strength – a warrior-like attitude in games that hasn’t been present before.
As Mourinho himself importantly noted, Shaw hasn’t just improved in a physical and tactical sense. He has, crucially, matured mentally as well.