19 Defender Manchester United England
2014 has been...
…a misspent holiday away from being a grade higher.
We wanted to give Luke Shaw a B - the great season with Southampton, the move to Manchester United, (injury aside) the promising start there, the World Cup call up etc. – but there was a small black mark in his copybook for the year that we couldn’t ignore. It was widely reported he enjoyed a post-Brazil holiday a little too much and came back to Old Trafford “carrying some timber”. The hyperbole around the incident (“his fitness was a disgrace”, “couldn’t run for 45 minutes let alone 90” to pick two choice quotes) was ridiculous but it will have been a harsh lesson for the young fullback to learn. A move such as his to United brings greater interest in all aspects of his life and career, couple that with his burgeoning England prospects and he will now know a little more about what is expected of him.
As part of the academy’s brilliant season last year at Southampton he started to make waves, a performance at Stamford Bridge in particular standing out as he suddenly began to look like an English fullback in the swashbuckling South American style. Defensively sound it was on the front foot where he really impressed, marauding at times in a side built to allow him and others to do so. Chelsea and United came a callin’ but it was reported he chose Manchester to play first team football having been assured of Patrice Evra’s departure.
A brief trip to the World Cup with that England team that felt it too rude to pester the second round will have been another learning experience. The misplaced pre-tournament headlines around Ashley Cole’s exclusion meant a keener eye on the left-back berth but one that was shouldered by Shed Seven’s Leighton Baines. Shaw emerged as a reason to be cheerful, playing in England’s thrilling 0-0 draw with Costa Rica in their last group game, and in the future he looks like becoming first choice for the position.
Those fitness concerns and an injury stifled his early career with the rest of the Van Gaalaticos, but he is now returning to something like full steam and very close to his best. His performance in a mundane game against Crystal Palace was notably excellent, even prompting Phil Neville to claim “when he opens his legs up he looks a bit like Gareth Bale”. We traditionally hate comparison – an individual is just that after all – but there’s a lineage there and he could very feasibly move forward or play as one of the lung-busting wing-backs we’re told his new manager will eventually favour.
His team may be in flux but Shaw is very much assured of his place in United’s future. Fitness worries now over and lessons learnt, he now needs to keep doing exactly what he’s done in his career to date and he’ll be just fine. The wonderkid is now a regular at a team with an official noodle partner, the spotlight is bigger but all that’s required is focus and attitude; his talent is not in doubt.
His England career looks set and he may even go past Ashley Cole’s 107 caps. He must guard against complacency as internationally at least, we fear he may have little in the way of genuine competition. He will have learned a lot about both the process of international football and himself this summer. Here’s hoping we don’t have any more post-holiday headlines to take a mark off for in the future.
“Us England fans don’t often have much to shout about but Luke Shaw is the youngster who seems to be already there. While we wait for others to fully blossom he could keep just getting better and better. Looks the real thing, I really hope he is” – Dave Hartrick
"Luke Shaw was the youngest player to play at the 2014 World Cup finals, when he played for England v Costa Rica (18y 348d)." - OptaJoe
C+ An England player to be excited about, we won’t lower ourselves to a Shaw/sure thing pun but it’s impossible not to think he’s going to keep progressing really well.
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