It’s hard to gage just what Jose Mourinho was trying to accomplish by describing Luke Shaw as one of the best left-backs in the world just before dropping him for Manchester United’s 1-0 win over Burnley at Turf Moor.
Actions speak louder than words and while the Red Devils gaffer may have sung the England international’s praises in the media, he also dropped him against a side that haven’t won and scored just four goals in their last eight games in favour of a 32-year-old converted winger.
“He’s good, solid, physically much better, mentally much stronger, tactically understanding the game much better and what we need in different phases and circumstances.
“I’m really happy and [looking at the transfer market], I can say that in this moment I don’t see many left-backs better than this Luke Shaw.”
Perhaps the Portuguese was trying to keep Sean Dyche second-guessing, perhaps he was trying to talk up Shaw’s value in the transfer market, or perhaps it was a mixture of both.
In any case, although Mourinho’s hand was somewhat forced by Ashley Young’s recent suspension, it’s certainly curious that Shaw has come back into United’s first team and earned praise from his manager just in time for the January transfer window, after being stuck on the fringes at Old Trafford for the vast majority of the United gaffer’s first 18 months in charge. That suggests if United receive a decent offer for Shaw before next week’s deadline, they’ll be open to a sale.
The ultimate question, though, is which Premier League club can provide the best home for a player who has struggled to progress since becoming the most expensive full-back in the world back in 2014.
There’s been speculative talk (quoted in The Express from Sky Sports’ The Debate) from the likes of Tim Sherwood about Shaw reuniting with Mauricio Pochettino in a swap deal that would see Danny Rose move to Old Trafford, but Everton are in need of a young, dynamic option at left-back as well.
“They might as well do the swap now. Shaw is loved by Mauricio Pochettino. Danny [Rose] is loved by Mourinho. Just do the swap now and get it over and done with.”
Leighton Baines is still a solid performer on his day, one that now boasts an abundance of experience in addition to his impressive technical quality and deadly deliveries into the box, but he just can’t be relied upon anymore – aged 33 and continuing to suffer from injury problems. That’s been a real issue for Everton this term; since being sidelined in November, Sam Allardyce has been forced to depend on Cuco Martina and Jonjoe Kenny switching to their less preferred flank. Performances from both right-backs at No.3 have been inconsistent at best.
The main concerns with Shaw are that he’s endured serious injury problems as well, and that there has been a recurring narrative of the England international failing to meet the demands of his managers.
Roy Hodgson, Louis van Gaal and Mourinho have all publicly criticised the defender at times, while even Pochettino who brought Shaw through at Southampton questioned the youngster’s working appetite in his book published earlier this season.
But Shaw is still an incredible talent who encompasses the qualities craved in modern full-backs, and he’s still just 22 years of age. That’s more than young enough to get his career back on track with the right move, and for a manager to leave a lasting impression on the youngster that can eradicate the criticism he’s received in recent years.
While there may be concerns over style of play for players coming into the club, Allardyce has proved himself to be an exceptional man-manager, capable of getting the best out of different types of characters, and that’s exactly what Shaw needs – someone who knows how to put an arm around him, as well as point out where he’s going wrong.
And if there is a clear weakness in Shaw’s game, it’s one Allardyce is almost tailor-made to solve; the seven-cap international has always been a formidable threat going forward, but the defensive side of his game would certainly benefit from fine-tuning.
At this point in January, the big questions are whether Everton have enough time to get a deal done and how much it would cost them, especially in light of Mourinho’s recent comments. It’s clear United are aware of Shaw’s value in the transfer market, even if he’s not a guaranteed starter. Transfermarkt value him at just £13.5million, but Everton could easily end up paying double that sum based on recent fees for full-backs.
Yet, Everton’s starting XI continues to cry out for a Baines successor and if the Toffees intend on becoming a side that can consistently compete for Champions League qualification under Allardyce, Shaw is undoubtedly the calibre of player, also offering longevity, who must be brought into Goodison Park. So, Everton fans, should your club swoop before next weeks’ deadline? Let us know by voting below…