CHICAGO • It has been a turbulent first year at Manchester United for Luke Shaw after his £38 million (S$81 million) move from Southampton. But Louis van Gaal believes that this will be the season the defender comes of age.
The pressure was on the moment Jose Mourinho claimed that Shaw's excessive wage demands would have "killed the stability" in the Chelsea dressing room, after the west London club pulled out of the race for the England left-back.
It intensified further when van Gaal publicly rebuked Shaw for being out of shape on the club's pre-season tour to the United States last summer and sent him to train alone before England boss Roy Hodgson admitted that he had spoken to the player about his fitness at the World Cup in Brazil.
A succession of injury problems over the course of last season, when he completed 90 minutes on only eight occasions, served to deepen the 20-year-old's troubles as his confidence dipped, form fluctuated and Daley Blind was moved to left-back.
Van Gaal claimed that Shaw had struggled to cope with the step-up to playing for United and blocked him from going to the European Under-21 Championship finals.
As such, the scrutiny on the defender going into this season was always going to be considerable. But the player's determination to put a difficult 12 months behind him and deliver on his unquestioned talent has impressed the United manager, who has witnessed a very different player in terms of attitude and fitness on this summer's US tour.
Shaw has arguably been the outstanding performer in United's matches against Club America, Seattle Sounders and Barcelona. And his decision to take one of the club's fitness trainers on holiday with him to Dubai, where he was put through four intense training sessions a day, appears to be reaping its benefits.
"Luke Shaw is a big talent," van Gaal said. "He's very young so it's not so easy for him to come from Southampton to as big a club as Manchester United.
"He has the benefit that he's an Englishman. (Memphis) Depay is a Dutchman and it's a different culture, a different rhythm to the game.
"So I think that it shall be the season of Luke Shaw - that I believe. I believe in him and he has to feel that and I hope he shall show it. But he's 20 years old. How many players of that age are playing in the Premier League?"
THE TIMES, LONDON