Wednesday 6 December 2017

Luke faces uncertain future despite rare start

Since the horror of his double leg break against PSV in September 2015, Luke Shaw has made  only 22 appearances for United and played a paltry 692 minutes of league football.

22 appearances in two years and three months. Damning stats for a player widely tipped to become one of the best left-backs in the world when he signed for the club from Southampton as the world's most expensive teenager at the time. 
Shaw was touted to be the next big star in the game when he moved from the south coast, having shone for Saints under the astute tutelage of Mauricio Pochettino. The career of both manager and player couldn't have been in starker contrast since both left their former clubs. The Argentine's reputation has been enhanced since he left St Mary's for Spurs, but Shaw's has plateaued dramatically in the opposite direction. Plenty of players have struggled to make the step up at United, but for Shaw it's especially disappointing as his talent is there for all to see. 

The erratic nature of his performances and presence in the squad have not all been of his own making: aside from the leg break, he's been riddled with a variety of injury problems with constant fitness issues hanging over him. But there's also been run-ins and stand-offs aplenty with Messrs Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho that have done little to help him - with the latter publicly questioning Shaw's commitment. 
He struck up a prolific and potent partnership with new signing Memphis Depay down the left in his second season at the club, and was just starting to look the real deal until calamity struck. Since then, his United career has stalled and that moment may yet be the one when everything unravelled. 

Having played only 48 minutes of Carabao Cup football all campaign, Shaw was picked from the start against CSKA Moscow (his first since April) and his troubles looked to be behind him as he reminded us all why we paid that £30 million. Given the freedom to bomb forward as a left wing-back, he didn't disappoint as he rolled the clock back with a brilliant performance reminiscent of his blistering start at United. He looked assured at the back and assured in possession, and almost scored himself - twice - but was also at fault for the visitors goal as he was left exposed by a rare CSKA counter-attack. Caught flat-footed high up the pitch, they exploited the space he left behind him and Alan Dzagoev scored. Understandably given his lack of playing time, he struggled with cramp in the closing stages but was still voted as our Man of the Match. 

Yet you get the feeling that this remains merely a stay of execution for Shaw: that his name on on the team sheet against CSKA was twofold - to put the player in the shop window ahead of a possible January move, and to give first choice left-back Ashley Young a breather with the Manchester derby on the horizon. 

For Luke, his long-term United career looks anything but a Shaw thing. 

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