In October last year I was the author of a piece that suggested, in no uncertain terms, that Southampton starlet Luke Shaw would be far better served joining Jose Mourinho’s second Chelsea revolution than opting for Manchester United.
For this I’d like to apologise. Not to Saints fans who attacked the piece for enforcing the notion that yet another incredibly promising starlet might depart St. Mary’s, no. I’d like to offer something of an admission of guilt to United supporters; I got it all wrong.
Having watched the season unfold as it has, and therefore witnessed the turmoil that has made itself an unwanted resident at Old Trafford, I’ve steadily amended my opinion. And now with every passing game and, as recent form would dictate, every passing loss for the reigning Premier League champions, more and more can I see something for Shaw that may not be half as forthright at Stamford Bridge; opportunity.
In contrast to the vast wealth of talent Jose Mourinho has at his disposal, David Moyes has but a few players within his set up who can firmly lay claim to a long-term future at the club and, where the Chelsea boss needs only to tweak his squad in order to boast a fully-furnished outfit, his United counterpart is expected to ring the changes in the coming months.
So why, you may ask, would an 18-year-old prospect wish to embroil himself in a project that looks as though it could take a good while to get off the ground? Put simply, because it stands to give him the best possible chance of realising his full potential.
If he were to opt for United, not only would Shaw be virtually guaranteed the left-back berth once Patrice Evra’s expected departure comes to fruition- and therefore gifting himself consistent game-time- but he would become possibly the first man to sign up to what is surely to be an exciting project under Moyes.
To further clarify, by ‘exciting project’ I mean the refurbishment that is now no longer merely a hope harboured by fans but rather an immediate goal that is now shared by both board and manager.
Such opportunities will not naturally come to youngsters who opt for Chelsea, particularly not whilst Jose Mourinho and his favoured old guard still remain.
The chances are that Shaw would probably be afforded a notch above the likes of perennial reserve full-back Ryan Bertrand, but even then he still has Ashley Cole to contend with.
And whilst it may be safe to deduce that Cole is far from the left-sided fulcrum he once was, it would be daft to claim that this season is his last in a Chelsea shirt.
Indeed a player of Shaw’s calibre should be targeting a move that would not make him someone’s understudy- and it’s a mark of his already present quality that prompts me to state that he’s too good for that- instead he should be setting his sights on a regular first-team spot at one of England’s elite clubs.
Yes it’s a risk that could ultimately backfire, but as the cry for a new-look United side completes its transition from a want to a need, it becomes increasingly evident that a player like Shaw could follow in the footsteps of the likes of David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and even Cristiano Ronaldo in becoming a young starlet who makes his name at United.
If Shaw has ambition to match his bags of ability, he'll take his opportunity.