JDaring Mourinho arrived in Rome as a hero on Friday afternoon, hundreds of Roma supporters gathered at Ciampino airport to greet him. However, the Italian capital did not belong to the new manager of Roma at 9 p.m. Saturday night. England were in town, ready for their Euro 2020 quarter-final against Ukraine, and a face from Mourinho’s past was about to go wild at the Stadio Olimpico.
Step forward Luke Shaw, who must have relished one of the best performances of his international career on Mourinho’s new patch. Shaw was impeccable on and off the ball as England set up a semi-final against Denmark with a devastating 4-0 win over Ukraine and it was especially nice for the left-back to provide assists for Harry Kane and Harry Maguire after recent criticism of his set piece delivery from a man apparently struggling to put old differences aside.
The beard, of course, came from Mourinho after Shaw’s performance in England’s group stage victory over the Czech Republic. The Portuguese had offered a scathing assessment of his former player’s corners, calling them “dramatically bad”, which left Shaw very unimpressed. After all, the 25-year-old hasn’t forgotten how Mourinho treated him during their time at Manchester United. Sniping was constant at the time and it was telling that Shaw was more than ready to go back last week, wondering why Mourinho remains so obsessed with criticizing him.
It’s not often that you hear a player ready to take on a former boss in public. Yet Shaw had decided that was enough. He remembered Mourinho saying ‘It was his body with my brain’ after the former Southampton defender played well for United in a 1-1 draw with Everton in 2017. There was always something thing to choose from and that hardly spoke for Mourinho when he observed that Shaw is a player “who can’t walk from bed to the toilet without breaking a leg”.
In other words, there are probably better ways to talk about a youngster whose career was in jeopardy after a double fractured right leg during a Champions League game against PSV Eindhoven in September 2015. La injury naturally had a huge impact on Shaw. , physically and psychologically, and it’s no surprise that he struggled to regain his best form after returning to action. It wouldn’t have taken much to realize that Shaw needed an arm around his shoulder rather than someone putting himself in his face all the time.
Still, Mourinho took the aggressive approach and it wasn’t until Ole Gunnar Solskjær stepped in at Old Trafford that Shaw started to relax. The management of the Norwegian’s men was more sympathetic, more humane. This had a liberating effect on Shaw, who quickly had a spring in his step, giving him the confidence to start realizing the vast potential that convinced United to sign him in 2014.
The transformation is remarkable. Shaw was one of United’s most impressive players last season, locking down the left flank, and his performances convinced Gareth Southgate to bring him back to the England squad for their World Cup qualifiers in March.
Shaw, who had not been selected since the 2-1 loss to Spain in September 2018, was making up for lost time. He was fitter, sharper and lighter, and he soon settled down. “He hadn’t been with us for a few years,” Southgate said on Saturday. “You often play in these games trying not to go wrong instead of blossoming. He feels comfortable in the environment now. He knows he fits. He feels comfortable with it.
Southgate went on to praise Shaw’s piercing deliveries against Ukraine. It was an exceptional display, made all the more impressive by the fact that Shaw wasn’t even a guaranteed choice for England at the start of the tournament.
The competition for places is fierce. Ben Chilwell won the Champions League with Chelsea in May and there was a surprise when right-hander Kieran Trippier started at left-back in England’s opener against Croatia. Since then, however, Shaw has gradually made himself irresistible. Although he had a disappointing game against Scotland, he got a second chance when Chilwell was forced to isolate himself ahead of the victory over the Czechs and he was brilliant as a winger in the 16 triumph. last against Germany.
Shaw got better with every game. His level rose against Germany, his confidence rose as he began to dominate Joshua Kimmich, and he was involved in both England goals. He provided the center for Raheem Sterling’s opener and teamed up with Jack Grealish for the Kane dropout.
These gusts gave England an extra dimension in attack. Shaw, whose defense was quick and aggressive, was relentless against Ukraine. He bolstered the left flank, his understanding with Sterling superb, and he regretted that his weak deliveries didn’t result in any goals in the first half.
No need: The second half was a minute old when Shaw made his point on Mourinho, swinging a nice ball for Maguire to make it 2-0. It was a great free kick and it was also important four minutes later, running over to Sterling’s glorious film and crossing over for Kane to come home.
He was a player operating at the height of his powers. After years of doubt, Shaw feels confident again. He should savor the moment.