As recently as the middle of December, it seemed entirely feasible that Luke Shaw may have been sold in the January transfer window.
Even if the former Southampton defender was to remain at Old Trafford beyond the month, it was thought by many that he would have been on borrowed time, with a host of other clubs lining up bids for the summer.
After all, the 22-year-old had not featured under Jose Mourinho in the league for the entire season.
Ashley Young, a converted winger, was preferred in the left-back slot while Matteo Darmian and Daley Blind – naturally a right-back and a central player respectively – had also been chosen ahead of the England international.
Yet Shaw’s fortunes have been transformed since starting the pre-Christmas draw at Leicester City.
He has now started eight of the club’s last 11 matches in all competitions and appears to not only have won the trust of Mourinho but the admiration of the Portuguese manager too.
“He has been free of minor injuries for a few months which sometimes stops the evolution and I'm really happy,” Mourinho told reporters on Friday.
“The natural consequence of it is that he will have his contract and he will be a United player for years.”
Taking a break
A potentially decisive moment in Shaw’s career came in September 2015 when he suffered a horrific leg break against PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League, ruling him out for the rest of the campaign.
He started the first five games under new boss Jose Mourinho the following season but was then dropped after a below-par display in a defeat at Watford and, ever-since, he has faded into seeming obscurity.
With Shaw suffering groin, foot and ankle injuries in the meantime which have disrupted any return to fitness or form since, Mourinho had publicly questioned his desire and commitment to overcome his injury issues.
It wasn’t the first manager to come out with this line about the full-back, with his predecessor Louis Van Gaal also stating similar concerns along with Roy Hodgson.
Who else to get?
Shaw’s build is robust, allowing him to make explosive runs and giving high-energy performances although such a frame is also thought to make him more susceptible to injuries.
He was signed by Manchester United primarily due to his attacking potential; his ability to make overlapping runs and providing an intelligent pass or crossed delivery into the box.
The Red Devils have been linked to Fulham’s Ryan Sessegnon and Danny Rose of Tottenham, yet a return to form for Shaw will save the club a great deal of expense and energy into reinvesting in the position.
The futures of Darmian and Blind at Manchester United look short and, despite his return to form under Mourinho, Young is 32 and surely does not have many more seasons left at the top level.
Marcos Rojo can offer cover in the position but appears to be more comfortable in the heart of defence.
One for the future
It is easy to forget that Shaw is ten years younger than former Aston Villa winger Young and has the opportunity to establish himself in the left-back position at Old Trafford for the next ten years.
The club have had several excellent left-backs over the years including Denis Irwin and Patrice Evra and, whilst it seemed improbable only two months ago, Shaw could yet add his name to United’s folklore.
What do you think? Can Luke Shaw become the go-to left back for Manchester United? Let us know in the comments section below.