In Depth

How Jose Mourinho's mind games have worked at Man United

Manager criticises Luke Shaw before reinstating him to the squad - what is the Special One playing at?

Luke Shaw's future at Man United remains mired in confusion after manager Jose Mourinho delivered a withering assessment of the £27m left-back at the weekend but has recalled him to the squad for tonight's game against Everton.

On Saturday, Mourinho openly questioned the 23-year-old's focus, commitment, attitude and ambition. His damning verdict, that Shaw was "a long way behind" his colleagues in every department, was "more likely to signal a parting of the ways than a wake-up call", writes Paul Wilson of The Guardian.

But could it amount to another psychological masterstroke from the Old Trafford boss?

"Shaw is understood to have responded to Mourinho's scathing remarks by requesting a meeting with the manager in his office at the training ground at 10am on Monday and was subsequently recalled to the squad," says James Ducker of the Daily Telegraph. "Sources suggested it was too early to say the pair had cleared the air but believe it was a step in the right direction after relations had hit rock bottom."

Mourinho has been dishing out brickbats and bouquets all season as he imposes himself on his squad. Here's how he has handled some of Shaw's team-mates.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan

The Armenian was hauled off at half-time against Man City on 10 September. It was his first start for the club and it appeared as though it might have been his last as a visibly angry Mourinho said he was "disappointed with some really poor individual performances".

Mhkitaryan wasn't seen again for two months, prompting speculation he had blown his chance. But he returned to the team as part of United's Europa League team and has since established himself as a key part of Mourinho's Premier League plans. In February, the manager claimed he had been "protecting" Mkhitaryan while he was "adapting" to the requirements of English football.

Result: Hit

Bastian Schweinsteiger

It was clear from the outset that Schweinsteiger would not be part of Mourinho's plans - at one stage, United even wrote him off as an asset in their accounts.

The German's first appearance of the season came in the EFL Cup against West Ham in late November, when the World Cup winner took his bow as an 86th minute substitute, replacing Anthony Martial.

His only start of the season came against Reading in the FA Cup in January, when Mourinho hinted there could be a way back for the German veteran. It was, said the manager, "an opportunity for him to play and show that he is ready - even for the Premier League".

Apparently he wasn't ready and in March, he signed for Chicago fire. 

Result: Miss

Wayne Rooney

Mourinho has won plaudits for the way he has stage-managed Rooney's journey from Old Trafford icon to forgotten man. So successful has the transformation been that eyebrows are no longer raised when the player is omitted from the matchday squad. 

Mourinho started the process immediately after arriving at Old Trafford, killing the debate over whether Rooney could play in midfield and showering the England captain with praise, insisting he was a striker or nothing. He gave him enough game time to become United's record scorer, eclipsing Bobby Charlton's record, but Rooney has been eased out of the picture by another legend, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, plus youngsters Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford and playmakers such as Juan Mata and Mkhitaryan.

He seems certain to leave this summer after 13 years with the club.

Result: Hit

Chris Smalling

One of Mourinho's first salvos against Shaw also included a swipe at Smalling, after the pair pulled out of United's game against Swansea in November. The manager pointedly remarked that there was a "difference between the brave [players], who want to be there at any cost, and the ones for who a little pain can make a difference".

Smalling was thought to be suffering from a broken foot and since returning to fitness in mid-December, has made 19 appearances for United. However, he was injured while on England duty and it is unclear if Mourinho regards him as a first-choice centre-back. The former Fulham man is still being linked with a move away from Old Trafford in the summer.

Result: Unclear

Paul Pogba

As many observers noted in the summer, it would be hard for a central midfielder to justify a £90m transfer fee - and so it has proved with Pogba. Whether his good work in the centre of the park comes to anything is rarely down to him; it needs a striker to convert the chances he creates. But whatever the caveats, few would argue his contribution has been particularly impressive this season.

Mourinho appears to disagree. Pogba played 26 consecutive Premier League games before injury struck last month, during which he contributed to four goals and three assists.

Despite growing criticism, Mourinho has never been afraid to go in to bat for the player, and even accused his detractors of being "envious" of him. But it is clear he has yet to coax the best out of his £90m man.

Result: Miss (so far)

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