After a humbling home loss to a divisional rival, Jose Mourinho sought for positives to try and change the narrative, declaring that Manchester United ‘didn’t lose the game’ tactically, describing the performance as a ‘miracle’ and even painting the polite appreciation of the supporters who decided to stay until the end of the 3-0 defeat as a uniquely special moment.
But perhaps Mourinho should have been trying to rebuild the confidence of the players clearly lacking it as a means to providing a silver lining to a largely dismal evening for a club that feels like its spiralling into crisis, by focusing on what they did do right against the Lilywhites.
Admittedly, impeccable individual performances were few and far between, especially at the back, but if there’s one defender who can be quietly proud of what he delivered on Bank Holiday Monday, it’s former outcast Luke Shaw.
In fairness, the deployment of an extra body at centre-half – theoretically at least – did ease the defensive burdens on the seven-cap England international, allowing him more freedom to do what he does best in galloping forward.
But even so, he still made the joint-most interceptions and won the second-most aerial duels of any United player while creating some of biggest tests of Tottenham on the overlap, completing three dribbles, making three chances and whipping four crosses into the box.
Bearing in mind Antonio Valencia’s still struggling for match fitness and every centre-back Mourinho starts at the minute seems destined to make at least one error gifting the opposition a huge chance to score, Shaw’s ironically emerging as the only defender the United boss can trust right now to put in a competent 90-minute performance.
It’s a far cry from the situation during Mourinho’s first two seasons at Old Trafford, but at the age of 23 it appears the former Southampton starlet is finally beginning to meet the intense demands the Portuguese has often placed on him.