The fractured relationship between Jose Mourinho and Luke Shaw is showing signs of a detente, with the Manchester United boss praising his oft-maligned left-back's performance during a straightforward 3-0 Premier League victory over 10-man Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Sunday (9 April).
Mourinho has been outspoken in his criticism of Shaw during his maiden campaign in charge at Old Trafford, recently expressing a belief that the seven-cap England international was "a long way behind" his teammates with regards to commitment, focus and ambition.
After sending on Shaw for only his second appearance since January in the midweek draw with Everton, he then rather bizarrely claimed that the 21-year-old, who turned down a move to Mourinho's Chelsea in 2014, had used "his body with my brain".
Despite another public warning that cast further doubt upon his Old Trafford future, Shaw was promoted to United's starting XI and it seems that his positive display against a side doomed to relegation met with his manager's approval.
"He played well, played solid," Mourinho was quoted as saying by The Independent. "The opposition was not creating big problems but he was solid and was confident with the ball, going forward with some danger. He was reading the game well to go to [Henrikh] Mkhitaryan when he was inside."
Shaw collected the first yellow card of the game on Wearside for a strong challenge on Didier Ndong and was eventually replaced just past the hour mark by Daley Blind. Addressing that substitution amid fears of another injury blow to hit his side during a packed April schedule, Mourinho, who thought about making the change at half-time, revealed that it came about due to pressure being exerted by the home crowd on referee Craig Pawson to level the playing field, having already controversially dismissed Sebastian Larsson.
"I thought about a half-time change but thought it was too harsh," he added. "I wanted him to play a little bit more. So 2-0, one hour [gone], the crowd asking for everything and putting the referee under pressure – no risk. We need him to be available for the next match."
With Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Ashley Young, Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney already sidelined, United's teamsheet for that clash with Sunderland was notable for the absence of David De Gea. Expanding on the reasons for that concerning omission after the full-time whistle, Mourinho confirmed that the first-choice goalkeeper, whose run of 63 consecutive league starts is now at an end, was suffering from a hip complaint and should return for next weekend's visit of Chelsea.
Deputy Sergio Romero would more than likely have started Thursday night's (13 April) Europa League quarter-final first-leg tie against Anderlecht anyway. Of the current injured crop, only Antonio Valencia has a chance of being fit for that fixture at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium.
"He has a problem with his hip," Mourinho said of De Gea's issue. "When he dives he feels it a little bit. It's good for him to have a rest. It's good for Sergio Romero to play before Brussels. De Gea will probably be fit for Chelsea – yes, if he's in good condition."
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