Shaw's Absence Looks Like Victory for United

Shaw has been told to rest for the summer, following a season pockmarked by nine injuries, particularly to hamstrings and groin.

Published: 21st May 2015 09:58 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st May 2015 09:58 AM   |  A+A-


The absence of Luke Shaw, the Manchester United defender, from the England Under-21s squad for the European Championship is another unwelcome addition to the club-versus-country scrapbook.

Shaw has been told to rest for the summer, following a season pockmarked by nine injuries, particularly to hamstrings and groin. His latest misfortune was what United described as "a blow to the face" when encountering an elbow belonging to Crystal Palace's James McArthur on May 9.

"I don't think it is very bad," observed Louis van Gaal at the time, adding that Shaw was taken off "out of precaution". His absence would be only a "short-term thing", United's manager reiterated on Friday, although he also appealed for Gareth Southgate not to pick the teenager for the Euros in June because "he needs that rest because he over-crossed his limits this season".

When this was put to Southgate at St George's Park on Tuesday, the Under-21s manager responded: "What he said in his press conference is an issue for him and Manchester United but it didn't affect things from our point of view. It hasn't inflamed the situation from our point of view. I have dealt with Luke the whole season and I know the player and the medical team are in constant contact." Asked when the decision was made on Shaw, Southgate replied: "Middle of last week, we were clearer on things." That, in itself, is confusing; on Monday the FA indicated Shaw had a chance of making the long-list squad announced on Tuesday.

Southgate has been assured that Shaw will not feature against Hull City on Sunday. To veteran observers of club-versus-country disputes, it looks like a straightforward case of a player starting his summer recuperation early and at England's expense.

Southgate's team play next on June 11, a friendly against Belarus at Oakwell, before flying out to the Czech Republic on June 14 and their first Euro match on June 18 against Portugal. United insist there is nothing else wrong with Shaw, barring the concussion he suffered 11 days ago and a belief that he has been fatigued by a stop-start season.

"Luke hasn't been told to withdraw,'' emphasised Southgate, adding that no manager ever ordered him to pull out of a squad during his England career. "I was never told. Alex [Ferguson] was one of the few who probably went that route, listening to the players now."

When Southgate was in the England squad in 2002, the then manager Sven-Goran Eriksson tried to pick Paul Scholes, was informed by Ferguson that the midfielder was injured and then had to watch aghast as Scholes started against Middlesbrough.

"We haven't had that situation,'' said Southgate, speaking generally of withdrawals. "Louis has been very supportive of him [Shaw] coming and he was released for the play-off and saw the value of him playing with his own age group. We know he is not going to be fit for the tournament and that's a shame because he was very keen to come and be a part of it.''

Tottenham Hotspur could easily point to Harry Kane needing a rest following 50 games for them, plus two for England's seniors (to Shaw's 20 appearances for Van Gaal and one for Roy Hodgson). "Harry is not injured,'' countered Southgate. "Of course we are mindful in selecting Harry that he has had a long season, many of the players here have. Will Hughes for the last two years has had an extensive games programme. Nathan Redmond for the last couple of years has been the same.

"So yes, with Harry we could have said 'not the right thing' but we think he has been a big part of this, he has been part of the dynamic of the group. He's got a really strong mentality. Probably at the start of this campaign we were starting Saido [Berahino] and Harry was very much of the belief: 'Why not me?' And he scored a hat-trick against San Marino and then we were dipping him in and out but every time he's played he's had a huge contribution.

"Goodness me, his world's changed enormously, he's the pin-up boy and it's a wonderful story and we hope this is the next part of it. We want to give him the stage to say he can do this on a big European stage and fantastic experience." A similar experience might have bolstered Shaw's confidence.

In another case of club-versus-country paranoia, Southgate refused to discuss the nature of Shaw's injury.

For all the inevitable concerns over the cause of Shaw's absence, and squad announcements are invariably about the omissions as much as the inclusions, Southgate can still take pride in his squad, given a talented goalkeeper in Jack Butland, the captain, defenders of the quality of John Stones and Calum Chambers, midfielders with the promise of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and quality of James Ward-Prowse, flying wingers like Redmond and a host of options upfront including Kane, Berahino, Danny Ings and Patrick Bamford. Kane and probably Chambers will be given a week's break before the Euros.

Ings, Hughes, Bamford and Berahino face speculation about their future but Southgate said they would not be distracted from their tournament focus. "I was guilty of putting in a transfer request at Aston Villa on the eve of a European Championship so I am in no position to ask!'' laughed Southgate. "For some, that might mean agents come in [to the hotel] with them. I don't see it being a distraction or getting in the way of us trying to win the championships which is what they are really determined to do."

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