When Luke Shaw arrived at Manchester United last summer his £30 million price tag raised a few eyebrows to say the least. Nonetheless the youngster was a signing that United fans were very excited about.
With club legend Patrice Evra leaving the club, Shaw was regarded as an excellent replacement. A teenager with Premier League experience who would be United's left-back for years to come.
However things didn't go according to plan in Shaw's debut season at Old Trafford. At times you could have forgiven United fans for questioned what they had paid for. Consequently the Englishman now faces a make or break season at United.
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Fitness and injuries were the biggest problem for Shaw in his first season with United. After being signed for such a large fee, Shaw would have wanted to make a quick start to life at the club.
Unfortunately for him this didn't happen. Pre-season proved to be a sign of things to come. The left-back was made to train on his own during United's tour of the USA such was van Gaal's shock at his physical shape.
There was little sign of his fitness improving during the course of the season. Indeed his campaign was plagued by injuries which restricted him to just 16 league appearances. Shaw also appeared to be overweight at times.
In a recent interview published in The Mirror, Shaw admitted: “I only had myself to blame. I didn't arrive at the club in the correct shape and things didn't go to plan." It's good to see that the youngster has accepted responsibility for his fitness struggles last season.
It was naive of him to think that he could get away with turning up at United in such poor physical shape, but he must put that behind him now.
A SECOND CHANCE
While letting his fitness slip was a bad mistake by Shaw we must remember that he was only 19-years-old when he made the switch to United. What 19-year-old can honestly say they haven't made mistakes? Of course when you're a professional footballer your errors of judgement are exposed for all to see.
Some would argue that it's inexcusable for a professional athlete to let his fitness dip so much, but consider the situation he was in last summer. A move to one of the world's biggest clubs and a £30 million price tag weighing on his shoulders, a lot for a teenager to handle. So perhaps it's understandable that he struggled last season.
Shaw will get a second chance. He should consider himself lucky, because United could quite easily have replaced him this summer. This would've been unwise though because the Englishman is undoubtedly a real talent. United always gives youth a chance, so if Shaw puts the effort in he will be a success at United.
Due to his struggles last season people tend to forget that he was one of the best left-backs in the league in his final season with Southampton. That is what earned him a move to United. A player does not simply lose his ability in the space of a year. All footballing logic dictates that the best of Luke Shaw is yet to come, he's only just turned 20 after all.
MAKE OR BREAK
It really is a massive season for the 20-year-old. The club has shown patience with the player by sticking with him this summer, despite clearly having the funds to bring in a replacement. Now it's time for Shaw to repay that faith and show why van Gaal's side invested £30 million in him.
He needs to work hard on his fitness during pre-season to make sure that he starts the season in peak physical condition. This was his biggest problem last season, he started in bad shape and things went downhill from there. United will not tolerate the same mistake twice.
Admitting your mistakes is the first step towards making up for them, so it's positive that Shaw has taken responsibility for his poor debut campaign.
The coming season will either secure a bright future for the Englishman or bring a swift end to his United career. If he can get a run of games and perform to the best of his ability then there's no reason to think that he can't be United's left back for the next decade.
The other scenario is that he struggles again next season, something that could well spell the end. The pressure is well and truly on, especially when you consider the left-backs United could bring in if they see fit.
The likes of Ricardo Rodriguez and Jetro Willems have impressed over the last two seasons, though a move for them would only be required if Shaw under performs.
Shaw will surely realise that while he plays for a big club like United he can easily be replaced. Now he must use his debut season struggles as the motivation to ensure that doesn't happen.
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