Manchester United are off to a flyer this season—with two 4-0 wins on the spin in the opening two games, and a 2-0 victory earlier today against Leicester. The Red Devils’ squad has the strength in depth in most areas of the pitch and United are primed to push hard for their first league title in five years in Mourinho’s historically successful second season at a new club.
Yet, there is always room for improvement and Manchester United are most certainly no exception to the rule. Jose Mourinho himself, until recently, looked and sounded desperate for a fourth signing to finally ‘create’ his team—a collection of individuals who would do his bidding with unparalleled desire and focus, enough to achieve their primary objective, which is to win the Premier League, first and foremost.
A left-sided midfielder who is dependable, could bomb up and down the flank mirroring the other side, and most importantly, provide in-form Romelu Lukaku with quality service. The solution, in Mourinho’s eyes, was Inter Milan’s Ivan Perisic, the 28-year old who would fit the aforementioned description to a tee; but he is now almost unattainable, thanks to the resolute Luciano Spalletti and his defiant stance on the winger.
When Mourinho does not get something he wants, he kicks up a fuss. But this time, on the contrary, there is a sense of calm about him that may not be entirely attributed to the performances that his Manchester United side have shown in these last two weeks—nor could it be the fact that they are top of the league at the moment. United were down this very road last season and that did not end well—in the Premier League, at least. Maybe the Portuguese has indeed found his fourth signing—not outside but within the club.
The recovery of Luke Shaw—whose highly anticipated career has yet to hit the strides it should have in the last two years—cannot have completed at a better time. The highly rated youngster has had a difficult time at Manchester United since his big money move from Southampton, plagued by inconsistencies mainly down to a lack of regular playing time, often not helped by the injuries he suffered in the said period. He has featured 32 times in the last 3 seasons combined for Manchester United in the Premier League – which is rather staggeringly, 3 less than his final season at Southampton alone.
It was no different last season. Luke Shaw has not made an appearance since the back-end of April when he damaged his ankle ligaments that saw him miss the Europa League final in Stockholm as United lifted their fifth European silverware.
Mourinho’s public criticism of the full back in November last season may have been harsh on the surface, but it appears that Shaw has taken to the ‘tough love’ approach and responded by putting in the minutes in the training ground so much, that United could be willing to extend his contract that currently runs out in 2018. Because a fully fit and firing Luke Shaw, though there is not a lot of recent evidence of that admittedly, is still one of the finest full-backs in the league – particularly at going forward.
The 22-year old has made the return to first team training recently, got 60 minutes under his belt in the reserves’ game against Swansea City – following which he signed autographs and posed for photographs with the fans, showing why he is still a popular figure within and beyond Old Trafford.
He said he was ‘happy’ to be back playing again – and elated he should be, as there is still a very real chance of him breaking through the first team again and nail down that left back spot his own. Such is the lack of genuine competition for United, at left-back.
Mourinho, to his credit, has stuck with him, when he had no obligation to do so. It’s time the 22-year old justified that trust.