Three things are certain in life: death, taxes and José Mourinho screaming himself blue in the face at Luke Shaw from his technical area.
It’s no secret there exists some friction between the hapless left-back and Manchester United’s increasingly under pressure boss, and it comes as little surprise to see the club once more linked with Spurs’ Danny Rose. If the transfer rumour mill is to be believed, Mourinho is a big fan, and speculation mounts that he is about to launch another bid to secure his services.
A year ago, with Luke Shaw appearing bloated, disinterested and tentatively making his way back from a horrific leg break, the pursuit of Danny Rose made some sense.
But, with Luke Shaw finally fit again and playing well, how much sense does it actually make to pull the trigger and sanction his replacement?
Age is just a number
It seems like Luke Shaw has been around forever, like that unopened jar of coconut butter you bought during a health kick in 2009, but in reality, his career has barely even begun. He made the jump from Southampton to United at the tender age of 19, but still only 22, Shaw has years left to fulfil his undoubted potential.
On the other hand, Danny Rose is five years Shaw’s senior, and at age 22 was fully embroiled in a relegation scrap with Sunderland. Hardly any more prodigious than Shaw’s current predicament. Yet, with patience and trust, Rose developed into a fine full-back for both Spurs and England.
And therein lies the problem. Mourinho is hardly renowned for his development of young footballers, least of all left-backs. About the single case he can claim is promoting Davide Santon to the Inter first team in 2008 – and that turned out well; Santon later went on to play second fiddle to Paul Dummett at Newcastle.
While Mourinho has bucked this trend and put his faith in the likes of Lingard, Rashford and McTominary this season, Luke Shaw appears to be the anomaly.
Keeping the physios busy
Luke Shaw’s injury problems have been well-documented. A paragon of fitness and vitality at Southampton, he’s sometimes cut a dejected figure at Man United owing to a wretched string of injuries. Just as he was beginning to find form, under Louis van Gaal no less, he suffered a terrible leg break that not only shattered his leg but his confidence too.
Since then, Shaw has battled an ankle injury and accusations from his manager of not being fit enough for elite level. Sure, he may possess a “fuller” build, but so does Romelu Lukaku – and at least Luke Shaw can run!
Similarly, Danny Rose has become rather closely acquainted with the treatment room in recent months. Plagued by a serious knee injury and with only five league appearances to his name this season (and a mere 18 last campaign), Rose is no more trustworthy in terms of being fit for selection than Shaw.
This makes the situation even more baffling to the eyes of United fans. Mourinho has been vocal about Shaw’s fitness problems in the past, yet appears quite willing to fork out £40 million for a left-back who’s only played 24 times in two seasons.
So, what’s the answer?
While £40 million isn’t a lot of money in today’s footballing climate (read: Barcelona were mental enough to spend £160 million on the poor man’s Christian Eriksen), it does seem somewhat of a risk to spend such a sum on a man whose knee may implode at any moment.
Danny Rose is a very good full-back, of that there is no doubt. But Luke Shaw has the potential to be too – and Luke Shaw has already cost the club £30 million. Younger than Rose, quicker than Rose, and with time on his side, Luke Shaw should be given the time to develop into the full-back Mourinho wants. After all, if Mourinho cannot mould Shaw – through tactical coaching – into the model of left-back he wants, is he really that good a manager at all?
Better still, rather than splurge £40 million on something Manchester United don’t need, Mourinho might be better of spending the cash elsewhere: a decent winger perhaps, or a centre-midfield partner for Matic, or a striker who can still function without Paul Pogba.
Then again, don’t put it past Mourinho to put his faith in neither and simply pinch whatever footballer Antonio Conte has designs on. Just to be a dick.