Luke Shaw has developed the “thick skin” required to flourish at Manchester United under Jose Mourinho, with the rejuvenated left-back even claiming to have “enjoyed” some of the tough love from his manager.
Given the Portuguese’s widespread criticism as the defender publicly fell down the Old Trafford pecking order, there were times this year when some suggested it was a case of when rather than if the 23-year-old would leave the club.
But, not for the first time, Shaw dug deep and came out fighting, winning a starting berth at United, the club’s player of the month for August and September, an England recall and new deal until at least 2023.
A rehabilitated relationship with Mourinho is key to that, but the manager recently suggested that the left-back, along with Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford, did not have the character or personality to compete at the highest level.
Those comments raised eyebrows but were dismissed by Shaw as a broader point, with the full-back instead speaking of the rewards of the United boss’ tough love as he prepares to face Young Boys in the Champions League on Tuesday.
“Of course, I kind of enjoyed it,” he said. “It was a very big challenge for me, with some of the things he’s said in the past, especially in the last year or two years.
“But, look, what he said the other day, I think that was more a generation thing and I don’t think it was really aimed much at us as individuals.
“But I think he was talking about nowadays’ generation, as opposed to when he was a bit younger.
“So, yeah, of course, we’re more focused on tomorrow.
“Look, when we saw that, training is much more important. We train hard for the team and we’re just looking forward to putting things right tomorrow.”
Shaw says that “everyone there in the changing room is a fighter”, meaning United are ready to right some wrongs by beating Young Boys in Tuesday’s Group H encounter.
Victory would see Mourinho’s men through to the last-16 should Valencia fail to beat Juventus in Turin, while it would give United just their fourth win at Old Trafford in 10 matches this season.
“You need thick skin to, of course, play under the manager, but 100 per cent this club,” Shaw said.
“It’s the biggest club in the world and we as players need to take what’s said and take that on board.
“I keep saying it, but we need to fight for the team, for the manager and for the fans and the club.
“Of course, we’re going through a bad stage at the moment but that’s why I signed my contract, because I know good things are coming our way and hopefully that’s sooner rather than later.”
Shaw missed the international break through injury and was suspended for Saturday’s drab 0-0 home draw against Crystal Palace – a match that ended with boos and Mourinho calling into question some of the players’ “heart”.
“Of course, it might look like that, but I look in the training ground and I look around the changing room and I think everyone wants the same – and that’s to win games and to climb up the table,” Shaw added.
“Obviously that’s what we need to do. I think the last couple of days everyone has been very disappointed.
“Obviously this was a big start for us after the international break, we needed to get a win but it wasn’t meant to be.
“Of course, we’re all disappointed but we need to fight for the club and for the team and for the manager starting tomorrow.”