Phil Neville was far from pleased with the way Luke Shaw went about his return to action for Manchester United against Burton Albion.
The youngster spent over four months on the sidelines after suffering ankle ligament damage against Swansea City in April and was introduced at half time against the Championship side with Man United 3-0 up.
And he immediately produced an encouraging run forward, only to be flagged offside, but couldn’t replicate his attacking threat during the later stages of the game.
Speaking on Sky Sports after the game, Neville noted that Shaw “coasted” through the game, rather than exacting himself on it.
“When I see someone that’s been criticised by his manager publicly and he’s probably fighting for his Man United future, come on in a game like this against Burton, you’re 3-0 up, there’s nothing to lose and you’ve just come back from a long injury, you absolutely sprint everywhere,” he said.
“And I didn’t see that real hunger to sprint to every ball, to sprint forward, to sprint back, I saw someone that’s coasting. He needs to come out of that comfort zone of coasting because if he wants to be a Man United left-back he needs to play at the level of a Ander Herrera.
“He [Herrera] got his chance tonight and he flew into every tackle and went into every ball and Shaw needs to get up to his intensity every minute of every game he plays for this football club. At the moment he’s not. He looked a long way off.
“I know he’s been out injured but we’re waiting for the real Luke Shaw. I think he’s good enough to play here but I need to see more from him.”
Neville’s come-on-and-give-em-hell attitude is admirable but, in the case of Shaw, far from realistic.
We have to remember that Shaw, throughout his career, has struggled for fitness and the right mental state to compete at the highest level. When he enters that special groove of his, everybody turns around and takes notice, but that is becoming increasingly rare, and he knows it.
I would contest, therefore, that he wasn’t coasting, but rather struggling to shake off the physical and mental rustiness that has so often hampered his progression at Old Trafford. Nobody – including the man himself – can be sure if he will make it, but one thing is for certain: this season is his last chance.