It is fair to say that Luke Shaw’s four seasons at Manchester United have been a total rollercoaster. An injury-disrupted first season ended with a sustained run in Louis Van Gaal’s first team, before a cruel leg break in September of the following season brought his progress to a premature end.
Under Jose Mourinho he has made only 15 league starts from a possible 67 and despite appearing to have recently turned around his fortunes, he has once again fallen out of favour.
The 22-year-old had not featured under Jose Mourinho in the league until the middle of December amid talk he would be moved on when the transfer window reopened the following month.
Ashley Young, a converted winger, was preferred in the left-back slot while Matteo Darmian and Daley Blind, naturally a right-back and a holding midfielder respectively, had also been chosen ahead of the England international.
Zero to hero... and back again
Across the busy Christmas and New Year period the Englishman started in eight of Manchester United’s 11 matches, leading to his Portuguese boss to lavish praise upon him. “He has been free of minor injuries for a few months which sometimes stops the evolution and I’m really happy,” Mourinho told reporters in early February.
“The natural consequence of it is that he will have his contract and he will be a United player for years.”
Yet since these kind comments, Shaw has not started a league or Champions League match for the Red Devils and he was unceremoniously hooked at the break in their FA Cup quarterfinal victory over Brighton.
After the match, Mourinho remarked: “At least Antonio (Valencia) defensively was capable of good positioning.
“Luke, in the first half, every time they came in his corridor, the cross came in and a dangerous situation was coming. I was not happy with his performance.”
To play devil’s advocate, it is of course possible that this, admittedly strange tactic, is designed to motivate the full back, yet media reports suggest he has not taken kindly to it, nor have his United teammates.
It is an odd tactic if Mourinho is planning on sanctioning Shaw’s sale in the summer as it would decrease his market value as it lets potential bidders aware of his weaknesses and his devaluation in importance.
Tottenham would appear to be a logical solution, in the context of United being long-term admirers of their first-choice full back Danny Rose, who appeared to be agitating for a transfer away from the North London club last summer. It is possible that the two clubs could attempt to facilitate a ‘swap deal’, with United offering money and Shaw for Rose's services.
But such deals are wrought with complications and Shaw would not be a guaranteed starter at Spurs in any case, due to the form of Ben Davies. It is possible he could be a long-term replacement for Leighton Baines at Everton, who are flush with money and who have a cordial working relationship with Manchester United.
Outside of the top six, Shaw has the ability to be a starter for all top flight clubs or he may be tempted by a move abroad to get his career back on track.
Take the risk?
We have seen young players like Jadon Sancho, Reece Oxford, Ademola Lookman, Chris Willock and Marcus McGuane move to foreign shores in recent months, and Shaw, a full England international would be a trail-blazer for modern times if he were to follow suit.
Stabbing in the dark, RB Leipzig could be a feasible option. The club had Scotsman Oliver Burke on their books, loaned in Lookman this season and have been linked to Reece Oxford, who is on loan at Borussia Monchengladbach. Starting left back Marcel Halstenberg has had his own injury problems, and sharing the work-load with Shaw would be the ideal solution for a club now dealing with European competition.
Van Gaal, Mourinho and former England boss Roy Hodgson have all questioned Shaw's fitness and commitment to the cause and from the player’s point of view this is simply too many.
The former Southampton defender must focus on re-finding fitness, shifting any excess weight and forcing his way back into first-team proceedings to make suitors away of his talents. Perhaps a move abroad, where there is a winter break and less intensity in the league, could be the solution to resurrect his career.