Erik ten Hag is about to use brand new partnership in Manchester United’s defence – Steven Railston

“21 is old enough to have a better understanding. He has a future here but Manchester United can&apost wait,” a disgruntled Mourinho added following a stalemate against Everton at Old Trafford.

Mourinho had already questioned Shaw&aposs commitment and focus and he&aposd been left out of the squad altogether in the previous game against West Brom, leaving question marks surrounding his future.

Shaw seemed destined to leave United with Mourinho in charge, but he survived that period and overcoming adversity has been a theme of his career considering the physical and mental challenges he&aposs faced.

The horrific double leg fracture Shaw suffered against PSV Eindhoven in 2015 would curtail most players&apos ability and it&aposs remarkable he&aposs been able to enjoy the best football of his career since returning from that injury.

It seems hyperbolic but Shaw was regarded by many as the best left-back in the world in the 2020/21 season and although his form dipped in the following campaign, he got back to his best playing for Erik ten Hag.

Shaw was exceptional last season and he made an effortless transition to playing at centre-back in December when he was asked to play there, with Lisandro Martinez absent after World Cup glory.

“Weve got a lot of world-class centre-backs here, but Im not going to lie Ive been really enjoying it. Its something very different and something Ive not experienced before,” Shaw said after his second game in that role.

“Ive played at centre-back but in a three and it is totally different. The manager has needed me to play there and Im happy to play wherever, as long as Im on that pitch. It always helps when youve got someone next to me like Varane.”

Mourinho once accused Shaw of lacking positional understanding and that couldn&apost be further from the truth now, as he demonstrated intelligence and quality to play on the left side of central defence.

Although there are many comments from Mourinho that time has looked fondly on, his lengthy criticism of Shaw cannot be included and the player will have taken satisfaction in proving his former manager wrong.

Shaw played over 10 games at centre-back last season, including the 2-1 win over Manchester City at Old Trafford in January and the enthralling 2-2 draw against Barcelona at Camp Nou a few weeks later in February.

It was a surprise to see Shaw play in a two-man axis for the first time against Nottingham Forest on December 27, but supporters were wondering why he hadn&apost been used there sooner by the end of the season.

Shaw was a revelation in that role and it&aposs not a secret that Ten Hag has a preference for having a left-footed player starting as the left-sided centre-back due to the advantages that gives in build-up play.

Lisandro Martinez was signed for that role and Shaw was outstanding in his absence at the business end of last season, which suggests he could be used there again when he returns from injury.

The 28-year-old has been sidelined since picking up an injury in the defeat against Tottenham in August, but he&aposs now close to a return and the early suggestion is there&aposs an outside chance that he could be available this weekend.

Diogo Dalot, Victor Lindelof and Sofyan Amrabat have been used at left-back in the absence of Shaw and he&aposs been sorely missed in his natural position, but it&aposs likely he could be used at centre-back when he returns.

Ten Hag considers Martinez, Jonny Evans and Shaw as the defenders who can play on the left side of the defence and that means Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane have fought for starts on the right.

Martinez has been sidelined with a metatarsal problem for three months and Evans sustained a thigh strain against FC Copenhagen, which means it was Lindelof and Maguire chosen to play Luton before the break.

Lindelof started on the left and scored the matchwinner, but Shaw is simply better than him on that side and it will be fascinating to see whether he makes an immediate return to the team should he be fit to play Everton.