Luke Shaw passes first test back but must live up to billing as future Manchester United great

The left-back played 70 minutes of the 1-1 draw with Bournemouth

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Jose Mourinho’s first comment on Luke Shaw before Manchester United’s 3-1 win over Swansea City in November seemed fair enough. “Luke told me this morning that he was not in the condition to play,” Mourinho said when quizzed about his team selection on MUTV. “So we had to build a new defensive line.”

It was the comment that followed, ostensibly not even about Shaw, that did the damage. “Daley Blind has some problems but he put himself available to be on the bench and to try to help the team. So the people that are here are people that I trust for a difficult match.”

The implication was obvious. Shaw - signed by Louis van Gaal in 2014 for a fee in the region of £30 million to become the most expensive teenager in world football - was weak. Not up for the fight. Delicate.

Mourinho’s comments did not go down well within the football community. The head of the PFA said he was “disappointed” by the public dressing down while England manager Gareth Southgate also expressed surprise — and perhaps they rankled Shaw, too.

Because, 21 minutes into his highly anticipated first-team recall against Bournemouth at Old Trafford, Shaw absolutely flew into a full-blooded tackle with Adam Smith. It was a superb tackle — brave, committed, fair — the kind you don't often see in the Premier League anymore, certainly without the flourish of a card immediately afterward.

Such commitment was especially praise-worthy, given Shaw’s history. The full-back’s right-leg was broken by Héctor Moreno in two places in a Champions League match against PSV in September 2015 but Shaw, who told the Guardian “I could hardly walk for six months, never mind play football” after the incident, would appear to retain no mental anguish.

Defensively, Shaw was impressive in the chaotic 1-1 draw between United and Bournemouth. Prior to his crowd-pleasing slide tackle on Smith, he had disposed the defender with a well-timed interception to quell a promising Bournemouth attack.

He made the joint-highest number of interceptions of any United player while he also registered five successful tackles, more than any other player on the pitch, which is an especially remarkable feat when you consider it was Bournemouth, rather than Manchester United, who were defending for large spells on the game.

Shaw made his name at Southampton as an attacking full-back, rampaging forward down the wing whenever possible. But his opportunities to get forward against Bournemouth were limited, although he did hit a fine long-pass to send Paul Pogba clear in the first-half and the Frenchman really should have opened the scoring.

With the game locked at 1-1 and 10-man Bournemouth dropped deep and defending for their lives, Mourinho eventually decided to withdraw Shaw after 70 minutes in favour of Marcus Rashford, as Marouane Fellaini and Jesse Lingard also came on for Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney in an ambitious triple-substitution.

Prior to the match, Mourinho told reporters that “the player who should be in a couple of years the best of all of our left-backs is Shaw”, while Gary Neville remarked on Sky Sports that Shaw “has the potential to be one of the best left-backs Manchester United have produced.”

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Shaw put in a number of fine tackles (Getty)

While complimentary, the comments pile significant pressure onto the 21-year-old’s shoulders. But against Bournemouth he looked anything but out of place and was one of the few United players to emerge from the underwhelming draw with any credit. Shaw’s future looks bright.

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