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Manchester United full-back Luke Shaw has endured an indifferent beginning to life under Jose Mourinho,

With good performances overshadowed by well documented public criticism from his manager.

Why Jose Mourinho ‘losing his touch’ has transformed Manchester UnitedThe 21-year-old is just that, a very young adult, and the man-management Mourinho put his defender through seemed entirely unnecessary. Detractors pointed to Mourinho’s endless number of selfless deflection techniques and his need for a scapegoat to justify his own managerial shortfalls.

Many people saw Mourinho’s comments as derisory to a squad member highly regarded as having a stellar attitude to training and his commitment to the cause. Shaw has been silent on the matter. Pundits and fans alike have speculated at the perceived effect it could have on a player so young, given this kind of public criticism has been Mourinho’s consistent downfall in recent years, having so spectacularly lost the dressing room at Chelsea in 2015.

However, the perception of the entire issue could change if Shaw bounces back and puts in the performances befitting of such a prodigiously talented full-back. Alienating such a potentially crucial member of the team makes no sense, and Shaw’s resurgence, if it does occur over the Christmas/New Year period will suggest it never really happened.

Earlier this week, Mourinho curiously looked to lay down a gauntlet to the young defender, reinforcing his desire for Shaw to mature, however, in a far more constructive way:

“He [Shaw] needs to improve. That is normal, he is a kid. I am not expecting a young player to be perfect,” Mourinho said. “A young player makes mistakes, a young player has things to learn, has things to develop. He needs to do that.” “How many matches has he already played for me? A lot. He was injured playing not on the bench! I need him back,” the 53-year-old added.

These quotes serve as public confirmation that a) Mourinho is still pushing the improvement message albeit framed differently, and b) the manager wants him back as quickly as possible. The notion that Mourinho carefully plans his public statements carries added weight here, given he did not need to say anything so complimentary. In this instance, it may prove to be that the manager has used the media as shrewdly as he ever has. It would not be the first time this season.

In the post-match interview after United’s 2-1 win over Crystal Palace, Mourinho refused to criticise match officials or condemn specific incidences that went against his side. Rather, he praised referee Craig Pawson. He could have created a headline – he didn’t, Alan Pardew did.

This comes after months of bemoaning poor decisions, claiming United were the unluckiest team in the Premier League, and being charged by the English Football Association (FA) for kicking a water bottle. Being so obviously hypocritical only serves to do one thing – help his team. Sir Alex Ferguson did this for the best part of 26 years, but was not always so subtle.

Mourinho is smartening up in the way he uses his extremely large soapbox in order to get a message out, or change perception on an issue. The key target is geared towards his squad reacting – and they have, relatively emphatically.

On November 5, Liverpool legend John Aldridge suggested the United boss had lost his touch – United’s current form suggests otherwise.

He was not the only one. Since Guardian football writer Jamie Jackson reported that United’s squad were surprised at Mourinho’s “distant” man management approach, the team has gone undefeated in nine matches.

In the past four days, United have won twice off the back of a taxing, albeit successful trip to Ukraine. The team is back within touching distance of the top four, and have a League Cup Semi-final on the horizon.

Oh, and remember that disgruntled young left-back? Yeah, it’s all smiles and sunshine over here, lads.

Originally published at outside90.com

Post written by Chris Hearn, Twitter: @_ChrisHearn
for Outside 90, Blog: outside90.com, Twitter: @Outside90

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