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What's Gone Wrong for Luke Shaw at Man United, and Where Might He End Up Next?

On the morning of September 17, 2015, Luke Shaw took a telephone call from Mauricio Pochettino that reduced him to tears. At his lowest ebb his former manager was thinking of him. It meant a lot. A little over two years on, one suspects he would love nothing more than another call from Pochettino. Albeit for very different reasons. Just two days prior to Shaw picking up a phone and hearing the Argentinian's familiar and comforting voice on the line, his whole world had been turned upside down. A tackle from PSV Eindhoven's Hector Moreno had left him with a double fracture to his right leg. There's no good time to get an injury like that, but this was the worst time. Up until that fateful night in Eindhoven, from which he has never seemingly recovered, Shaw had been Manchester United's best player that season. His injury occurred after a thrusting run saw him beat two men before cutting inside into PSV's box. For the first time since pitching up at Old Trafford the previous campaign as a callow-to-the-point-of-being-gauche 19-year-old, who, in his own words, criminally, wasn't in the correct shape, he was looking like a proper Manchester United player. That the halcyon days of more than three years at United can be condensed into a period spanning little over a month or so tells us everything about his time at Manchester. According to the journalist Paul Hirst of The Times, it is a time very much of the borrowed variety. His piece on Saturday said: "United paid £30 million to sign Shaw from Southampton in 2014, but he has failed to make a good impression on [manager Jose] Mourinho. The club hope to find a buyer willing to pay about £20 million for him." Given Manchester United's purported long-term interest in Danny Rose, the Doncaster-born Tottenham Hotspur man's declaration to The Sun's Dave Kidd that he wouldn't be averse to moving back north and Shaw's long-term admiration for Pochettino, it doesn't take Duncan Castles to work out some kind of swap dealing may be in the offing. Even withstanding a career that is starting to look suspiciously like Jack Wilshere's, Shaw's stock is presumably still healthy (if a little anaemic) enough to have a high calibre of suitors sniffing. According to the Telegraph's James Ducker, Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea and Everton are all keeping tabs. Wages of £130,000 per week could be a stumbling block, even if £20 million is relatively cheap enough to be worth a punt on a player who is still just 22. Ducker reported a loan switch to Fenerbahce in January does not appeal to the player. Chelsea owe manager Antonio Conte a left-back after baulking at Alex Sandro's £60 million valuation at Juventus over the summer, while Arsene Wenger could be just the man to dangle the carrot after Mourinho has got precisely nowhere with the stick. Shaw playing under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City could be quite the thing, but in the words of Sir Alex Ferguson, Mourinho probably wouldn't sell him a virus. Also, the threat of being two-footed by a disgruntled Fabian Delph in training would probably put Shaw off. Everton could sign him to play up front and blindly hope he's the new Paul Warhurst. It's a measure of how good he was that he is still on the radar at all. Into his fourth season at United, Shaw has played just 2,269 minutes of Premier League football, starting just 29 matches. In his final season at Southampton, he started 35 games and racked up 2,995 minutes of top-flight football. He made the shortlist for the PFA Young Player of the Year and was voted into the Team of the Year by his fellow professionals. When Shaw joined Manchester United for £27 million in July 2014, it made him the costliest teenager in the game and the fourth-most expensive defender of all time. He is now United's fourth-choice left-back. This season, he has played 48 minutes of football over two matches, both as a substitute in the Carabao Cup. He was granted 270 seconds against Swansea City.  At his first press conference as Manchester United manager Mourinho was at pains to explain how he was, "a manager that likes specialists rather than multi-functional players because I am clear in my approach." Shaw is the only specialist left-back at the club. He's fourth choice. If his position were any more terminal, he would have been read his last rites. He is behind winger-turned-full-back Ashley Young, the right-footed Matteo Darmian and the Swiss Army knife of a player that is Daley Blind (useful for a lot of things, but not great at any). To even say Shaw is fourth choice is probably being charitable. When fit, Marcos Rojo would be picked ahead of him. It's not inconceivable Fred the Red would too if it came to it. Though if a job-share were mooted, there's no way Mourinho would trust Shaw to put on those big furry feet without falling over and injuring himself. Even withstanding Hirst's story, Shaw's relationship with Pochettino has generated its fair share of column inches of late. The player's gushing praise for his former boss for the epilogue to Guillem Balague's Brave New World: Inside Pochettino's Spurs effectively demonstrated the devil-may-care chutzpah of a condemned man who complains his last meal was ruined because the steak was a little overdone and fries lacked seasoning. "I do hope that I can play for him again one day," Shaw writes (via Mark Critchley of The Independent). He continues: "And I think he really wants me to play under him again. He used to call me his son. That's how good our relationship was. I've had lots of ups and downs, but when I was with Pochettino, it was only ever up, up, up. "He made me feel that I was the best. He'd show me clips of my games and say, 'You should do this better'. Not in a horrible way. Not I could have done better, but I should have done better, because he knows I can be better." Now he has mastered the art of writing epilogues, penning an obituary for his Manchester United career should be a breeze. Presumably, someone close to Shaw read and signed it off prior to publication. It's not technically grounds for divorce, but given his relationship with Mourinho appears in dire need of some marriage counselling, it's like handing a list of what you loved about your ex to an estranged partner. Shaw surely cannot have been as naive as...


Published By: Bleacher Report - Monday, 13 November, 2017

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