At Jose Mourinho’s new home, the Stadio Olimpico, Luke Shaw, chose the perfect setting for his latest riposte to his former boss with two assists in England’s 4-0 thrashing of Ukraine to reach the Euro 2020 semi-finals.
Shaw suffered at the hands of Mourinho for three seasons at Manchester United, a string of public criticism not a patch on what was said behind closed doors, the 25-year-old admitted this week.
Mourinho’s arrival at Old Trafford came hot on the heels of a horrible double leg fracture Shaw suffered in September 2015. The former Southampton defender revealed in 2018 there had even been fears his right leg would have to be amputated because of blood clots that required emergency surgery. His career never got back on track during Mourinho’s tempestuous time at United, where he was far from the only player the Portuguese did not take kindly to.
At one point Mourinho even remarked he was the “brain” controlling Shaw’s body by having to coach him through games. “I don’t think any of you realise the two or three years I had with him and how bad it was then, what it was like then,” Shaw told reporters this week. “What he says now is nothing compared to how it used to be. I am being totally honest. I am so past it now. I have grown up a lot.”
Newly installed as Roma boss, but working as a pundit at the Euro, Mourinho’s latest barb was to criticise Shaw’s set-piece delivery after England’s 0-0 draw with Scotland. “Clearly I am in his head a lot and he clearly thinks about me a lot,” added Shaw in a withering critique of his former boss. There was no problem with Shaw’s delivery in Rome on Saturday as two pinpoint crosses picked out Harry Maguire and Harry Kane early in the second half as England romped to their biggest ever win at a European Championship.
Shaw was also the creator for the vital opening goal, scored by Raheem Sterling, in a 2-0 win over Germany in the last 16 which ended a 55-year wait for a knockout victory over the four-time world champions in a major tournament. Another 55-year milestone is now England’s target as they return to Wembley with 60,000 in attendance for a semi-final against Denmark on Wednesday.
The Three Lions have never even reached the final of a major tournament since winning the 1966 World Cup, but will scarcely get a better chance with momentum and home advantage on their side. “We won’t win the game because we’re at home. We’ve got to play well and we’ve got a fabulous opportunity,” said England boss Gareth Southgate. “It’s a chance to make history. We’ve never been to a European Championship final, it’s not so much pressure but it’s another challenge for these players to take on.”
Southgate’s calm and caring relationship with his squad is in stark contrast to Mourinho’s old-fashioned method of encouraging his players to prove him wrong. There is no doubt which gets the best out of Shaw and England are reaping the rewards
“Of course I could go through a lot of people to thank but I think the most important one is obviously Gareth for trusting me and putting me in the squad and picking me and playing me,” added Shaw. “A lot of people maybe will have doubted me to be in the squad and to play maybe. But I’ve kept my head down, kept working hard and hopefully I can keep this responsibility up for the manager.”