Recent reports suggest that Alex Sandro, who United have reportedly been pursuing all summer, is nearing a move to PSG. There has been plenty of speculation that United have been in talks with both the left-back and his club, Juventus at various points this summer with Matteo Darmian possibly going the other way. It was reported that United failed to meet the valuation the Italian team put on Sandro, as well as the fact United decided they wanted to sell Luke Shaw first.
The deal for Sandro may still happen, and he would be an excellent signing for United if it went through, but it looks increasingly like another long saga from which United will emerge with nothing. It’s unclear as to what exactly occurs in these negotiations, but United always seems to haggle too long with the price, doing nothing other than aggravating the club and putting doubts in the player’s mind about how much they want him. Ivan Perisic, who has just completed a fantastic World Cup for Croatia, was another player United chased for a long time with no success. For a club of such riches and stature in world football, it’s incredible how often they struggle to get deals over the line; like a supermodel who can’t get a date.
If Sandro does go to PSG, where does that leave United? With just a few weeks left in the transfer window, the options are reducing. It may be that they revisit their interest in Danny Rose but his lack of fitness and conviction in the World Cup will have done little to turn Mourinho’s head. Ashley Young remains in control of the left-back slot at United, but he is neither a long-term option nor able to give the team the balance and quality it needs.
It does mean, though, that Luke Shaw’s United career may not be over just yet. It seemed he would be sold this year and clubs have shown an interest in him, after Mourinho had lost the last of his patience with the player’s lack of fitness and mental fortitude. A photo widely shared on social media showed a player out of shape, and it appeared his motivation and appetite (for football, at least) had gone.
Yet, incredibly, a few weeks later, Shaw looks transformed. As was shown by the holiday photo, one picture cannot tell the whole story but the recent images of him back in training show him looking leaner and fitter than he has in several years.
And that’s a key issue, for his ability was never in doubt. Shaw possesses every attribute you would want in a full-back: pace, power, strong defensively and going forward, aided by a powerful left foot. His main weakness seems to be his mental strength. After his injury several years ago, the 23-year-old has never recaptured his true form, introducing hesitancy and uncertainty into the game, and a feeling that he never trusted his body to move into top gear.
Shaw has had spells of form last season, but they have been brief and sporadic. A few games here and there provided a reminder of his talent, but not nearly emphatically enough to dispel the doubts in Mourinho’s mind. It’s frustrating to watch because there is an enormous opportunity ahead of him, both for his club and country, and he just needs to grasp it. Shaw seems to be a player who needs his manager’s backing, an arm around the shoulder, a few words of support, the carrot rather than the stick.
Mourinho, though, prefers a more direct, confrontational approach but it’s a style that has stymied Shaw rather than enthused him. The images of him looking fit and confident though, coupled the possible collapse of the Sandro deal, may lead to a significant shift in his career at United. There have been false dawns before and many feel he has had too many chances already, but if he is afforded one more opportunity, then this time he simply has to take it.