Luke Shaw: The Journey Continues

Luke Shaw celebrates his second career goal against Derby County

15th September 2015, under the floodlights of the Philips Stadion in Eindhoven, perhaps the worst day in the life of Luke Shaw, a 20-year-old full back who was keen to make an impression playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world on a grand stage. The young Englishman who flew to Eindhoven for his first ever appearance in a Champions League groupstage game certainly would’ve been hoping to continue his excellent partnership with his Dutch teammate Memphis Depay on the left flank and produce an eye-catching performance for Manchester United. However, time had different plans for young Luke as he suffered a double fracture on his right leg during the match after a challenge from PSV defender Hector Moreno. The incident saw the youngster stretchered back to Manchester with shattered dreams and tears having touched down the city as a fully fit young man who was raring to go.

Many thought Luke’s career was over following the horrendous injury while others judged he could never play at the top level anymore. However, four years later, he found himself on the stage infront of his applauding teammates after being awarded with Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award for his impressive performances with Manchester United. The exciting United team that is shaping up under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer today has an English left back going by the name of Luke Shaw in it. The player who so nearly lost his career can be seen bursting down the left wing with the ball through the grass of Old Trafford today. Shaw’s recovery and rehabilitation has become one of the most encouraging and motivational success stories in the entire sports industry, let alone football.

"I was really close to actually losing my leg. I never knew that until six months later when the doctor told me” said Luke when asked about the injury on his return to the English national team. The defender even admitted he had thought about quitting football thinking there was no way back for him. However, his friends and family helped him to push through the difficult situation and strengthened him mentally to fight and make a comeback which looked seemingly impossible at that point in time. He never had to look back since and continued his steady recovery. The most fascinating fact was that he even started taking gym session just six weeks after the horror injury.


Did Luke Shaw impress after his horror injury?

He made his return to the pitch on 7 August 2016 in Manchester United’s Community Shield win over reigning Premier League Champions Leicester City. Although he had minor injury troubles thereafter, he never lost hope and came back stronger. He was in and out of the United team for the next two seasons due to minor injury worries and partly due to the manager preferring experienced Ashley Young in that role. It was during the 2018-19 campaign that turned out to be the breakthrough season for the left back. Manchester United having had a poor summer transfer window in terms of new signings meant that manager Jose Mourinho had to utilise his available options thus giving Luke Shaw a chance in the first game of the season against Leicester City. The full back had an excellent game and even scored the winner for his team. His excellent performances continued throughout the season and it finally looked like the £30 million Manchester United paid to Southampton for his services back in 2014 was worth the money. He was awarded with both Manchester United’s player’s Player of the Year as well as the player of the year award at the end of the season thus acknowledging his brilliant performances for the team.


What about when Ole came in?

Since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s arrival as Manchester United’s manager, Shaw has even been deployed as a centre back in a back three at times, a role in which he looked more than comfortable and produced some brilliant performances. With the development of Brandon Williams, he had a direct competition for his place in the lineup which has enabled him to further push his game and fight for his spot. The defender is now a regular in Solskjaer’s team and continues to deliver impressive performances in both attacking and defensive fronts


Does he deserve the criticism he gets?

However, he also had his critics citing his inability to maintain a balance between defense and attack. He can be defensively caught out at times while committing forward which in turn leads to a counter attack from the opposition through his wing. Shaw has been targeted by most oppositions this season who tend to build most of the attacks from their right flank mainly due to the player being defensively inferior to his fellow full back Aaron Wan-Bissaka who is very difficult to get past. Shaw has also been criticized on several occasions for his lack of physical fitness and  being overweight. This has led few sections of the fans demanding for a new left back in the summer. However, some of these critics were wrongly brought up since the defender has never looked to be lacking fitness during the game and is not shy to work hard. 


Conclusion:

With a few tweaks to his game and the coaching of Solskjaer and his staff, Shaw should be able to sort out his weaknesses and take his game to the next level. Now at 24, he finds himself a part of a young team that is flourishing with new hopes under the Norwegian and could very well soon get his hands on a major silverware with the Red Devils. 



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