“I’m brilliant. So good. Everything about the last day or two has been unbelievable. I’ve not felt this happy in a long while.”
I think it’s fair to say that Luke Shaw was speaking for all of us football fans who support England (I appreciate not everyone reading this does!) following Tuesday’s memorable Euro 2020 victory over Germany. Talking on England’s ‘Lions’ Den’ show, a beaming Luke reflected on being part of the starting XI that made history.
The incredible celebratory scenes at Wembley didn’t just feel like a huge release of emotion that encapsulated finally seeing us get past THAT team which has caused so much heartbreak at international level, it felt like an epic release of emotion for what everyone has gone through in the last year; it was a day the nation needed and for Luke Shaw it was a day all United fans loved to see when it came to recognising the brilliance and bravery of last season’s Players’ Player of the Year.
Brilliance for his sublime laid-it-on-a-plate cross for Raheem Sterling to open the scoring at Wembley in the 75th minute. Brilliance 11 minutes later when his interception on the half-way line, drive forword and ball out to Jack Grealish led to Harry Kane nodding home the second. And brilliance for helping his side keep yet another clean sheet in the tournament – four so far for the Three Lions, with Luke playing a part in three of those.
Bravery for his physical and mental recovery from a truly horrendous injury, a year into his United career, back in 2015 as well as some other frustrating niggles since. And bravery for dealing with the overall highs and lows of being in the spotlight at the biggest club in the world. And he’s done it all calmly, quietly and professionally, with no complaints, just a steely focus on getting himself up to the consistently excellent performance level we’re seeing now.
Shaw, a hugely popular member of the dressing room, recently celebrated seven years at Old Trafford following his summer signing back in 2014, as an 18-year-old, when he became the fourth-most expensive defender in world football.
Life started well for the left-back, but just over a year into his Reds career he suffered that awful double leg break during our Champions League clash away to PSV Eindhoven.
Fast-forward nearly six years and few would argue with the assessment that Luke has been the best left-back in the country in the last year or so, he’s deservedly got himself back in the England squad on merit and now his name will be forever etched in Wembley folklore, alongside the rest of Gareth Southgate’s side who famously saw off Germany earlier this week.
And for us United fans we couldn’t be happier to see Luke getting the recognition he fully deserves.
Not only has he recovered so well physically from his injury issues, but mentally he has shown incredible strength. It’s been well-documented that life as a Red hasn’t always been easy for him, especially when it came to differences in opinion about his fitness and form with a couple of our past managers. But Luke has never lost faith in his ability, and with a hugely supportive family network around him (his mum and dad travel home, away and abroad to cheer on their talented son) and his strong rapport with the United fans he’s had a fantastic basis on which he has been able to rebuild in order to establish himself as the best around in his position.
He has also thrived under the guidance of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the great relationship the pair have has been another very important factor in Luke’s rise.
“His man-management is second to none,” declared Luke a few months back. “The way he conducts himself in terms of how he speaks to the players, it gets the best out of them. He takes the pressure off the lads and takes it all himself. I had no confidence at times. I think that is what changed with Ole. He managed me right and I got my confidence back and I am really enjoying it at the moment.”
During a sit-down chat I had with Luke at the end of last year soon after he celebrated 150 appearances for the Reds – he’s always a passionate, honest and excellent interviewee – he discussed how fatherhood has helped him mature following the birth of his little boy back in 2019 and how he sees himself as a player who can help others at the club given his wealth of experience even at the tender age of 25.
“I’ve been here a while now and I know what’s needed here. I’m one of the more experienced ones in the changing room. I feel like I can help out with some of the young lads, I know what they’re going through and I know I can give them advice that’s needed to help them push on,” he explained.
“It’s nice that I can be one of those people, having been here for a while, that can give more in in the dressing room.”
On and off the pitch Shaw has grown in confidence and stature, and deserved recognition for club and country is there for all to witness. He’s a player and person you root for and want to succeed. And we all can’t wait to see him back bossing that left touchline at Old Trafford next season.
For now his attentions remain firmly on England and what could turn out to be a truly historic next week for our country. Here’s hoping Luke and co can bring it home.
The opinions in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Manchester United Football Club.