Senior figures at Manchester United are becoming increasingly perturbed by Jose Mourinho’s treatment of Luke Shaw and fear the manager’s persistent public humiliating of the England defender is also damaging his transfer value.
Shaw was subjected to more scathing public criticism from Mourinho on Saturday when the left back was hauled off at half-time of United’s 2-0 FA Cup quarter-final win over Brighton & Hove Albion at Old Trafford.
The Daily Telegraph reported on Sunday how some United players believe it is has got to the stage where Shaw is being “bullied” by Mourinho after being left shocked and angered by the player’s latest public degrading.
It is understood some senior members of the dressing room are considering addressing the situation with Mourinho. Mourinho was seen angrily shouting at Shaw during the first half and later vented his unhappiness at his performance in interviews but the Telegraph understands that was the opposite of how the defender’s display was viewed by others in the United camp.
Players’ concerns are believed to be shared by some staff at United, who feel the manager has overstepped the mark and that his treatment of Shaw is now at risk of appearing “vindictive”. “It’s like the default setting is to criticise Shaw,” one source said.
There are also thought to be worries that Shaw’s transfer value is being eroded by Mourinho’s relentless criticism in the event the Portuguese wants the club to sell the 22-year-old in the summer, four years after his £28 million move from Southampton.
Shaw – who seems likely to miss out on a place at the World Cup finals with England after finding himself on the periphery at United – is out of contract at Old Trafford at the end of next season and could form part of a significant cull.
Defenders Matteo Darmian, Daley Blind and Chris Smalling and midfielder Ander Herrera also face uncertain futures. Zlatan Ibrahimovic will leave when his contract expires at the end of the season and midfielder Marouane Fellaini could do the same. Michael Carrick is due to retire in June and join the club’s coaching staff. United want to keep Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial but both have had their difficulties with Mourinho.
Mourinho has previously questioned Shaw’s commitment, focus and ambition as well as his football brain and was similarly uncompromising in his appraisal of the player after Brighton. “Luke, in the first half, every time they came in his corridor, the cross came in and a dangerous situation was coming. I was not happy with his performance,” Mourinho said. “Every player can play bad but when you see, ‘Please Mr, take me from the pitch’. That is what I thought.”
Jose Mourinho's treatment of Luke Shaw is tired and vindictive - this is not tough love
There is recognition within Old Trafford that, injury problems and a double leg break aside, Shaw has had his own fitness battles amid criticism of his lifestyle. However, there was a belief he had shown mental fortitude to come back from Mourinho’s frequents rebuke to start regularly in December and early in the New Year before another sudden fall from grace.
Shaw retains the faith of many inside the club, who believe he has the talent to succeed, and the player has been determined to make things work but there are growing concerns his position is being rendered untenable by Mourinho.
Mourinho had claimed last month that Shaw would get a new contract as a “natural consequence” of the “big effort” the player had made.
But since Mourinho claimed in mid-January that he “didn’t see many better left backs” than Shaw, the player has played just 113 minutes in the Premier League and started only four matches in all competitions, with Ashley Young the first choice left back.