Phil Neville’s advice for Luke Shaw at Manchester United

by Leo Nieboer

Former Manchester United full-back Phil Neville has advised Luke Shaw to pull his finger out under Jose Mourinho and abandon any notions of the Portuguese not rating his defensive style at Old Trafford.

The youngster enjoyed a strong start to the season, impressing during Man United’s first five Premier League games, only to lose his place in the starting XI after pulling out on the morning of his side’s 3-1 win over Swansea City.

He has now been consigned to the backwaters at Old Trafford, managing just 70 minutes in the Premier League since October.

And Neville, speaking on BBC Radio Five Live, advised Shaw to adopt a stronger mentality during the closing stages of the season.

“If I was Luke Shaw, I wouldn’t be looking to get out of Manchester United,” he said. 

“I’d be looking at that situation thinking that on Saturday played Ashley Young at left-back, that he has been playing Matteo Darmian at left-back, Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind. These are players who are not out-and-out left-backs.

“So rather than thinking ‘the manager doesn’t rate me’, I’d be thinking ‘I have to pull my finger out here’ and think the opportunity in front of me is absolutely huge, to be the No 1 left-back at one of the biggest clubs in the world.”

One can only be pessimistic when it comes to contemplating Shaw’s future under Mourinho, especially in the wake of reports suggesting that the Portuguese had placed emphasis on securing a world class left-back over the summer.

The writing was on the wall when, hours before United’s visit to the Liberty Stadium in November, Shaw withdrew from the squad, noting that he lacked the appropriate levels of mental and physical strength heading into the clash with Bob Bradley’s side.

Such an outburst is anathema to Mourinho, or indeed any manager competing at this level: the 54-year-old wants warriors capable of playing through pain, not players who shirk away from the challenge at the first sight of discomfort.

Shaw has an easy decision to make: continue to lurk in the background, languishing in his own web of self-doubt and pity, or to throw everything he has at the cause.

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