Manchester United left-back Luke Shaw has admitted it was a ‘very difficult’ time for him when he was publicly criticised by former manager Jose Mourinho, although he has since treated it as a learning curve and as additional motivation to get back to his best form.
Shaw has suffered with injuries throughout his time at Old Trafford following a £30m - a world record fee for a teenager - move from Southampton in 2014, with the stop-start nature of his career and persistent fitness setbacks often making it difficult to perform consistently well.
Mourinho once suggested that Shaw lacked a football brain and needed constant instruction after one game against Everton in 2017. On another occasion, he called out Shaw, albeit not directly by name, in public following a shock United defeat to Watford in 2016.
It is a known tactic of Mourinho’s to try and get a response from players and Shaw isn’t the only one to have been on the receiving end of it, but that didn’t make it any easier for him to handle.
“It was very difficult because sometimes I wasn’t able to get my word across. A lot of people were behind me [at United], so I knew I had that sort of backing, but I just needed to keep quiet and put my head down,” the 25-year-old told BBC Sport.
“A lot of people were saying a lot of negative stuff about me and I just look back at it as a learning curve and it has improved me as a person off the pitch, not just on the pitch.
“There was a lot of changes in my lifestyle, but I think the main thing for me was to never give up. I just needed to believe in myself more, work hard, and my chance will come again.
“You always have some doubts. I’ve been very unfortunate at times to pick up injuries, but I’ve always believed that I can be an important player here. You want to be showing people what you can do and hopefully I can keep doing that and proving people wrong.”
Since returning from his latest injury setback and facing up to direct competition from October deadline day signing Alex Telles, Shaw has been one of United’s best performers in recent months and has significantly improved his previously lacking attacking output.
“It was a very hard time a couple of years back when I wasn’t playing, wasn’t even involved. There were times when maybe people were thinking, ‘he could leave’. But I always believed that, one day, I’d be able to fight my way back, get into the team and show people what my qualities are,” he said.
“I feel like I’m starting to do that now, but there’s still much more to come I think and I’m still quite young so I’ve still got time to improve.”