Luke Shaw has noted that every player is fighting hard for a place at Manchester United ahead of important games in the Premier League and Europa League.
Jose Mourinho‘s men will begin a potentially season-defining week with a trip to Belgium for the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final with Anderlecht before hosting Chelsea at home in the Premier League.
Shaw has responded to the manager’s public criticism of his work rate last week in a positive fashion, producing strong displays against Everton and Sunderland; a place in the starting XI for the game against Anderlecht could be on the cards.
But the 21-year-old, speaking earlier this week, noted that securing a place in the starting XI was far from easy under Mourinho.
“Every single game is massive now, but I think the one on Thursday is huge. We have to treat every game in that competition now like it’s a final. We want to win that tournament,” he said.
“We fight for whatever we have got left, we have to have that mentality where every game is a cup final and not worry about which competition it is in. But the Europa League is a massive thing for us now, it’s a trophy and it gives us qualification for the Champions League. We have to look at that as the priority now. We’ve got to fight for that.
“Anderlecht will be tough, every team left in this stage of the competition will have quality. We’ve got to focus all week on what their strengths and weaknesses are, but most of all we need to focus on ourselves, what we do and how we play. With the players we have got, we can be unstoppable.
“It is a really big opportunity for us to get to the final. I’d love to play in the games coming up and especially with the Europa League to help the team push towards the final.
“Everyone is fighting for a place in that squad now. Everyone is training hard and I am trying to impress the manager because the games at the end are the big games. The final, the quarters-finals, the semis are the games you want to be playing in.”
The next few weeks will tell Mourinho plenty about who possesses the right mindset to succeed at this level, and indeed perhaps consequently define which positions he chooses to strengthen over the summer.
This is because, as Shaw notes, these upcoming games signal crunch time for United. No more excuses, no more ambiguity – United have to perform, and those that shirk the challenge will, I imagine, descend into obscurity very quickly, as Shaw will be firmly aware of.