In the 84th minute of Manchester United’s astonishing 6-1 Premier League defeat to Tottenham last October, Luke Shaw, frustrated after being given the run-around by Son Heung-min and Serge Aurier all day, launched into a horrific tackle from behind on Lucas Moura.
The left back was lucky to escape with a yellow card when he should quite rightly have been sent off. On the touchline, his manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looked exasperated while in the other dugout, a certain Jose Mourinho might have raised a vindicated smirk.
Mourinho previously managed Shaw at Old Trafford and the player has since admitted the two didn’t get on, with Mourinho himself not shy in publicly criticising the player – both then and now.
On that miserable afternoon, Shaw looked about as far away from an international quality defender as one might imagine, simply handing the outspoken Portuguese manager more ammunition.
Roll on eight months and as he hung up the cross that Harry Kane headed beyond the helpless George Buschan to put England 3-0 up in Rome, Shaw was on his way to completing, for some, a man-of-the-match performance as the Three Lions strolled into the Euro 2020 semi-final.
Along with his cross for Raheem Sterling to give England the lead against Germany three days before and the free-kick for club-mate Harry Maguire’s header five minutes earlier, the defender had registered his third assist of the tournament – only one behind the already-eliminated Steven Zuber of Switzerland.
It was a match that rubber-stamped Shaw’s rehabilitation and arguably secured his place in Gareth Southgate’s starting line-up for the remainder of the tournament, be that one game or two.
Shaw’s improvement over the course of last season for his club was notable with the player making six assists and scoring his only goal in a Manchester derby win at City as United finished runners up in the Premier League and Europa League.
At international level however, the 25-year-old’s career had seemed to have come to a standstill, with injuries and poor form leaving him on the periphery of the squad for a number of years.
In fact, after being recalled for the World Cup qualifiers in March this year, his selection for the match against Albania was Shaw’s first start since September 2018 – incidentally, he marked this return with an assist for Kane once again in a 2-0 win.
Ahead of the Euros however, Shaw was still expected to play second fiddle to Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell until the Champions League winning left back was forced to self-isolate due to Covid regulations.
Shaw seized his opportunity and after his impact in England’s last two games, he is expected to keep his place in the team.
Behind all this is the backdrop of an ongoing war of words with his former manager Mourinho who oversaw Shaw during the lowest point of his career when the two were at United.
Declan Rice, Luke Shaw and Mason Mount of England acknowledge the fans after victory in the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Quarter-final match between Ukraine and England at Olimpico Stadium on July 03, 2021 in Rome, Italy
Image credit: Getty Images
A potentially career-threatening leg break in 2015 kept the player out of action for a number of months and by the time of his return, Mourinho was his manager and seemingly had no time for the player.
Shaw has said he is ignoring his former boss’ comments – good and bad – from now on, but should his form continue and he help England lift the trophy, it’s obvious who will have had the last laugh.