Stoke manager Mark Hughes has issued a "hands off" warning to Louis van Gaal after Ryan Shawcross was linked with a move to Manchester United, and, as if that was not enough, showered his captain with praise.
Hughes insisted that he could always guarantee a high standard of performance from the 27-year-old: "You just want that comfort of knowing week in, week out he is there giving the performances that are required.
"He's one of our main players," he said, before adding pointedly: "But I'm not sure how much notice we should take from a story where someone in America is considering what to do and sees his name mentioned."
Speaking before today's home game with Swansea, Hughes believes that the uncompromising Shawcross has thrived on the pressure of the captain's armband that he has worn for the past four years, and has strengthened the club's standing in the process. "He's a good captain, he takes on the role," the Welshman said.
"He was a young captain and grew into the role. He's got the respect of his team-mates. He's got a good solid grounding, too, and that helps him understand the role.
"He's not aggressive, that's not his style. But he is forthright when needed. He's vocal in games; he's a strong leader and that's just what we need."
Shawcross, who began his career with Manchester United, won a solitary England cap as a substitute against Sweden in a friendly in 2012, but has been tipped for a recall to Roy Hodgson's squad.
"You can understand Ryan would be talked of by top clubs if they are looking to add to their squad, but he has a good situation here," Hughes added. "He is held in high regard by everyone – myself, the players, the fans."
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