Manchester United Must Adapt Under New Management, According To Luke Shaw’s Views

It’s not so long ago that footballers in England dreading leaving their club environment to join up with a disparate group of peers, often pursuing their own agenda, to play for a failing national team where the spotlight was particularly harsh.

The transformation in the mood around the England squad is a credit to Gareth Southgate and players seem to genuinely look forward to meeting up against at St George’s Park at the moment.

Ahead of the friendly with Switzerland at Wembley on Saturday the England manager had said that this international break was an opportune moment for players to meet up again, escaping the pressures of their clubs ahead of what for many is going to be a pivotal run-in to the end of the season.

Southgate has fostered a club spirit within an international side, but for the players representing the Three Lions from Manchester United, it seems the situation has reversed completely. They look forward to an England squad get together to escape the grind of club duty and the relentless scrutiny they’re under.

There have been question marks over Harry Maguire’s place in this squad, but he’s always been a reliable performer for England. The United captain is having an awful season at club level but he’s been generally excellent for the Three Lions and it’s nine months since he was starring in Euro 2020, making such an impression he was named in the team of the tournament.

Maguire is probably grateful for the opportunity to escape his club, especially as he was given the sarcastic cheering treatment when he was substituted against Atletico Madrid in the last game he played for United.

Luke Shaw hasn’t played for United for a month, having seemingly lost his place to Alex Telles, but he scored for England against Switzerland and in an interview with Sky Sports after the game he seemed to make it clear that being with England at St George’s Park is a more enjoyable experience than being with United at Carrington at the moment.

“The environment here that Gareth creates, you always enjoy it,” he said.

“I think when I come here [to England], for me it’s about enjoyment, playing games with a smile on my face and enjoying it. I feel like here, when I come here I always do that, we all love playing for our country.

“When we’re here we just focus on what’s happening because my main focus is England at this time. I think everyone does. It’s always important to feel like you’re wanted.

“Especially here, I always feel that. I’m not saying I don’t at United but especially here, the way things are, I feel wanted, I enjoy my football. The big part of football is enjoyment.

“Of course, it’s hard to enjoy it when we’re losing and we’re not playing well at club level, we have to face that, this season it’s not been good enough at all it’s hard to enjoy, we’ve got a lot to improve on at the club but we’re here at England so it’s more focused on that.”

Shaw is another player who shone at the European Championship but hasn’t found it easy to replicate that form for United this season, but you won’t find many supporters who believe Telles is a better option at left-back.

Dressing room sources stressed earlier this season that morale was as big an issue as splits amongst the players and it certainly felt recently like playing for United has become a test of character. Watching recent performances it’s hard to see many players who you could say are actually enjoying it.

That’s an incredible position to be in, considering this is one of the biggest clubs in the world, but the environment looks to be a poor one at the moment and whoever replaces Ralf Rangnick this summer has to make changing that one of their top priorities.

It was instructive to listen to former power development Mick Clegg, who spent 11 years working under Sir Alex Ferguson, and Sammy McIlroy, who was Sir Matt Busby’s last signing, this week. Both explained how Ferguson and Busby made a behemoth of a club feel like a family.

The only family United resemble at the moment is a dysfunctional one and Shaw’s comments have shone a light on that. Playing for United should be a privilege but as the pressure grows on an underperforming club, it’s looking more like a chore at the moment.

That has to change this summer.

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