José Mourinho had publicly told Luke Shaw that he must improve if he’s to regain his starting spot in Manchester United’s first team in the coming weeks.
Shaw has recently returned from a long-term injury that he sustained at the backend of last season. He played twice with the under-23s before Mourinho brought the youngster back into the side as a substitute at left wing-back against Burton Albion in the EFL Cup.
Despite putting in a solid second half performance, 32-year-old Ashley Young was elected over Shaw for the following game, a 1-0 victory at Southampton in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon.
Mourinho said that Shaw “has to work” to become the club’s first-choice left-back again.
“He has to improve,” Mourinho told reporters ahead of Saturday’s game.
“Look, he doesn’t play for six months. I am not expecting him to arrive on Wednesday and to be Man of the Match or to be running up and down for 45 minutes.
“Luke had surgery and a long time without playing football. I cannot expect him to be back and to be strong, strong, strong in his work.”
Shaw and Mourinho have had a somewhat tricky relationship, certainly from an outsiders point of view. The full-back appeared to be given the same tough love treatment, publicly, that Henrikh Mkhitaryan received when he first arrived at Old Trafford.
Perhaps that wasn’t appropriate given Shaw’s circumstances; a young left-back returning from a very serious double leg-break.
Mourinho seemingly put Shaw under much greater pressure than necessary, but that man-management technique has worked with Mkhitaryan and more recently with Anthony Martial.
If Shaw can respond in the way his teammates have done, he’ll thank Mourinho for his tough love, but at the moment the Portuguese manager continues to favour alternative left-back options to Shaw.