Jose Mourinho is not immune to criticism. Sometimes he even relishes it.
Throughout his career, the Portuguese manager has received his fair share of the brunt of frustration and anger from supporters in the myriad of the clubs he has taken over.
At Manchester United, however, criticism has become somewhat of a rarity, with the club winning two major trophies in their first season. Star protagonists in Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku have delivered, while the spine of the team is concrete and Old Trafford once again irks opponents mentally and physically.
Yet one of the most unpopular decisions by Mourinho has been his treatment over Luke Shaw. United fans have agreed in unison that Shaw’s attitude and fitness needed to improve if the English left-back wanted to start regularly for the Red Devils, but also came to a consensus that the opportunities to prove himself were too limited.
It was the left-back’s first United start in 219 days, and only his third appearance of the season following two EFL Cup outings.
And against CSKA Moscow he took that chance. Throughout the 90 minutes, Shaw became a constant threat in a wing-back role, bombing up and down the left flank throughout, creating countless problems with his pace.
It was no surprise then to see Shaw find himself in areas where he could make a significant impact, the highlight being a sweetly struck volley in the first half, but it was well saved by CSKA keeper Igor Akinfeev.
As Shaw continued to accelerate behind the Russian’s rear-guard he had, to the naked eye, debunked myths about his fitness.
What was most noticeable last night though was the left-back’s mental strength. When CSKA Moscow opened the scoring on the cusp of half-time it was Shaw’s lack of concentration, with the defender needlessly sucked towards the ball, which allowed Mario Fernandes to dart around the outside and launch a dangerous ball into the box. The mistake cost United a goal.
For a player who has faced such a psychologically draining battle over the last two years a mistake like that could have unnerved a particular few, but Shaw’s dedication and commitment to win the ball and continue on with his game-plan was a testament to a man who wants to be United’s first choice left-back in the long-term.
If he can continue with that attitude then there is no reason why he shouldn’t be that person.