The Luke Shaw we are seeing now is the same player who had the world at his feet when he joined Manchester United… there is personal vindication in the way his renaissance has driven England into the semi-finals
- Luke Shaw produced a fine England display in Jose Mourinho’s new back yard
- It wasn’t just the Shaw’s unerring quality of his final ball which was significant
- The defensive side was also strong in the first half periods of slight jeopardy
- Yet his international renaissance is actually about a confluence of factors
- Find out the latest Euro 2020 news including fixtures, live action and results here
Since Luke Shaw chose Jose Mourinho’s new back yard to produce another signature display for England, perhaps this is the moment to consider his former Manchester United manager’s thoughts on the full-back.
Shaw, Mourinho reflected a few years ago, was one of those players ‘who cannot walk from the bed to the toilet without breaking a leg.’
Unfortunate and deeply insensitive, since he’d incurred a double break of that limb just two years earlier. Even when Shaw performed well, Mourinho declared: ‘It was his body with my brain.’
There was huge personal vindication for Shaw in the way he drove England into the semi-final
Shaw chose Jose Mourinho’s new back yard to produce another signature display for England
Considering Mourinho also decided Mohamed Salah was surplus to requirement and drove Kevin de Bruyne out of Chelsea, his personal judgement of a player hardly need detain us here.
Yet there was huge personal vindication for Shaw in the way he drove England into the semi-final on Saturday night, just as he had been integral to them reaching Rome.
It wasn’t just the unerring quality of his final ball which was significant. The defensive component was also strong in the first half periods when a slight sense of jeopardy still stalked England.
It might already seem a distant memory, but it took the best of Shaw’s awareness to head clear the cross that Viktor Tsyhankov speared across the England box, 15 minutes in, with Andriy Yarmelenko lurking to receive it.
Shaw’s defensive component was also strong in the first half periods of slight jeopardy
But his performance will be best remembered for its attacking component in Rome
But his performance will be best remembered for its attacking component. It helped that he had Raheem Sterling – the game’s outstanding player – on his flank.
Sterling’s exquisite flick, with the inside of his right heel, which sent Shaw in to cross for Harry Kane’s second goal went largely undetected. Yet the ball Shaw drifted up for Kane was unerring precise.
There was arced free kick of pace and accuracy from which Harry Maguire scored. The incisive low cross from which Jadon Sancho, spinning to shoot, might also have found the net. The weighted ball which Kane headed narrowly over.
The Luke Shaw we are seeing at this tournament is the same player who seemed to have the football world at his feet when he signed for Manchester United in 2014. He was a teenager who needed the right kind of manager, back then, though it was his professional misfortune to encounter Louis van Gaal and Mourinho instead.
It helped that he had Raheem Sterling – the game’s outstanding player – on his flank
There was arced free kick of pace and accuracy from which Harry Maguire scored
Both could be brutal. In conversations on this subject with van Gaal, there was sometimes a malign inference about Shaw’s shape. Even Roy Hodgson, as England manager, contributed to the perennial pubic discussion of his fitness levels.
The double leg fracture, after a poorly timed tackle from PSV Eindhoven’s Héctor Moreno, didn’t help and left him hospitalised in the Netherlands.
As Frank Lampard put it in the BBC studio on Saturday night, Shaw hasn’t always been ‘in the best of shape.’ And as Alan Shearer added in the same conversation: It’s about people believing in you and having the confidence in you.’
At United, that individual has been Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who encourages where Mourinho confronts and saw Shaw become the club’s Player of the Season in the last campaign.
The ball Shaw drifted up for Harry Kane for his second of the night was unerring precise
Gareth Southgate was also willing to keep an open mind about him, despite Shaw dropping out of a number of England squads because he simply was not up to it physically.
Shaw seems to feel there is a personal debt to repay where the England manager is concerned. ‘I’ve a few massive regrets, especially the mistakes that I made in the past with England and yes, of course, letting Gareth down,’ he said when finally recalled to the squad for the first time in three years, in March.
His international renaissance is actually about a confluence of factors. Evading injury has enabled him to maintain full fitness, be motivated to train harder had and so find the kind confidence which his made his last two performance his best in an England shirt.
Shaw now has three assists for these Euros – second only to Switzerland’s Steven Zuber – and the most from an Englishman at a tournament since David Beckham at Euro 2000. They don’t just arrive from crosses. As he demonstrated here and against Germany, he is also comfortable cutting inside to use his intuitive sense of space to send teammates in.
Man United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer encourages Shaw where Mourinho confronts
Beyond his use of the ball, it was his box-to-box running that struck you on Saturday night, given that we had not seen this kind of lung capacity for so long. It was Shaw, from full-back, who had the most progressive passes in the final third of any England player vs Ukraine (12).
The size of the contribution he had made was evident when he left the field after 65 minutes, as Southgate rested players with the game already won. Harry Maguire, Kane, Sterling and Kalvin Phillips and Jordan Henderson all approached him to offer congratulations as he left. They knew what he had brought.
‘I feel as if his performances have improved in every game,’ Southgate reflected in the aftermath. ‘It’s understandable, because March was his first game with us for a few years. I think he now feels comfortable in this environment.’
Somewhere across the Eternal City, Jose Mourinho – who arrived on Friday as the new Roma manager in a private jet piloted by the club’s owner – will have been surveying all this.
One of his first jobs may be to remove the graffiti that was left on Stadio Olimpico’s concrete walls by one admiring supporter. ‘SHAW WAS HERE’, it read.
Shaw seems to feel there is a personal debt to repay where the England manager Gareth Southgate is concerned
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