Jose Mourinho told Luke Shaw “you cannot play better than you did” following Manchester United’s 0-3 defeat at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur on Monday night.
The Englishman, despite calls for him to leave over the summer, arrived at pre-season in excellent condition and has started all three of the club’s games so far this term.
And he was without doubt the best player on the pitch against Spurs, producing a performance full of energy, precision, power and desire.
The 55-year-old made note of how he was “particularly pleased” with the way Shaw went about his business against Mauricio Pochettino’s side.
“I was particularly pleased,” he said. “I was telling him, ‘You cannot play better than you did’. So of course the kid has to be upset with the result. But the kid has to know that he had three very good matches in the Premier League and today he was very, very good. I am very, very happy with him.”
Ever since playing Club America on July 19 – a time which may as well belong to another universe given how far away it feels – Shaw has operated at a different level of energy to his United teammates.
A good time to start is with that boat picture. After another season on the periphery, slammed by his manager in March, the photo of Shaw looking slightly paunchy on a boat in Ibiza was the nail in the coffin for many supporters. He was finished, they thought.
But he has proven everyone wrong, hauling himself out of anonymity and back into the starting XI. You could tell he meant business when, at a time when others were enjoying their last week of holiday, he was working with the club’s fitness coach in Dubai at the height of its summer, with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees celsius.
He has fought for that edge, that extra piece of strength and endurance which has too often been missing.
The results have been emphatic. Shaw has been the best United player in all three games so far. At this rate he can bank on keeping his place in the starting XI, and perhaps even a recall to the national side.
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