It's Now or Never for Injury Prone Luke Shaw at Manchester United

Luke Shaw
Luke Shaw faces a crucial 12 months at Manchester United | James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Despite recovering some form and making his last two seasons arguably his best in a Manchester United shirt, another injury has ruled Luke Shaw out of action just when he's needed most.

United finished third in the 2019/20 Premier League and could yet win the 2020 Europa League to cap off a promising season for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as head coach. Shaw has made a good account for himself when he's been fit and has made 33 appearances in all competitions.

But inevitably, injury has ruled him out of the Red Devils' Europa League push - an ongoing issue since his £30m move to Old Trafford in 2014.

After struggling to impress Louis van Gaal in his debut season, he looked to have turned a corner in the 2015/16 campaign before being ruled out with a nasty leg break. Since that unfortunate injury, the left back has endured a torrid time.

Luke Shaw
Shaw is expected to be out until September with his most recent injury | Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

Further injuries - usually muscle related - and inconsistencies have limited Shaw, who made just 22 Premier League appearances in both the 2016/17 and 2017/18 seasons combined, and have cast doubt over his long-term future - despite being rated as one of the hottest young prospects in the game at one time.

The problems with Shaw's unfortunate injury record stem from that horrendous double leg fracture in 2015. In a Champions League group stage contest against PSV, Shaw suffered the injury and was ruled out for the rest of the season. He was then ruled out with a groin injury for two months after his return in the 2016/17 campaign, and has had to deal with a number of issues since.

Not only has there been an immense physical battle to stay fit, but it's taken Shaw - now 25 - a long time to mentally recover from the incident in 2015.

United's failure to find any consistency and subsequent swapping of managers from Van Gaal to Jose Mourinho, and now to Solskjaer, likely hasn't helped him out either. Because they've been so underwhelming, however, a number of players in the squad have managed to sneak under the radar with subpar performances as a result.

Shaw, unfortunately, is one of them.

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It's taken Shaw a long while to fully get over his horrific leg injury | JOHN THYS/Getty Images

While Shaw, capped eight times at senior level for England, has enjoyed two successful seasons in the past two years, he has coasted at times. He'd previously been criticised for fitness levels not being up to scratch, and although that was in his early years under Van Gaal, the issues have quietly remained since - resulting in regular injuries.

It takes a while to get over serious injury, sure, but the inability to find any consistency in genuine fitness and performance levels isn't good enough at Manchester United.

Solskjaer has brought back a certain level of ruthlessness among the squad, despite appearing quite the opposite to the press. For the longest time, Shaw has been able to float in and out of the team with little challenge for his spot, but the Norwegian head coach has taken a different approach.

The emergence of Brandon Williams has put Shaw under pressure for his spot this season. The 19-year-old has impressed enough to make 34 appearances in all competitions this season, and has actually pushed Shaw to find his best form. The pair have worked well together and for a while have answered United's longstanding problem at left back.

With Williams recently penning a new four-year deal at Old Trafford, the competition is only going to continue. He's got a big role to play in this Europa League finale, while Shaw will have a watching brief. Not only that, United are looking to strengthen a squad that is admittedly only a few players off being one of their most capable squads in years - and we're kidding ourselves if we don't think left back is a problem area.

As a result, Shaw needs to get himself fit and prove that he's actually improving, not just getting by. Doing the basics right isn't going to take his game to the next level, and isn't going to get United to where they want to be.

Spirits have been lifted by the arrival of Bruno Fernandes - a real quality player - and a bit of fight, desire and grit appears to be back in the team. Fighting hard for your place and having a point to prove helps with that, and Shaw sure needs to do that.

He's done it in fits and spurts during the 2019/20 campaign, but his injury record is a huge elephant in the room. Next season, he's unlikely to be afforded the same time and patience that he's been given in previous seasons. Just look at the way Diogo Dalot has been exiled.

Brandon Williams, Luke Shaw
Luke Shaw has faced serious competition from young Brandon Williams | Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

If he wants to make a success of his career at Manchester United, Shaw must put the hard yards in over the next year. If he doesn't, Williams will usurp in the pecking order and render him surplus to requirements - it really is now or never.