LOS ANGELES -- Luke Shaw has endured a tumultuous career at Manchester United.
Signed for a world-record fee for a teenager in 2014, he has seen his best form halted by a horrific leg-break in 2015 as well as praise and criticism from his two managers at Old Trafford -- Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho.
Despite being named the Premier League's best left-back during the 2013-14 season while at Southampton, he has struggled to win over Mourinho since his appointment in 2016 and last season made just eight league starts, missing out on a place in England's World Cup squad in the process.
Now, after a summer break and an individual training camp in Dubai, he is focused on winning back his place for club and country.
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In a revealing interview at United's Los Angeles training base, the 23-year-old opens up about Mourinho, his future and the critics who have branded him overweight.
Q: Can you talk through your preseason routine in Dubai?
A: We had to wake up quite early because it was hitting 45 degrees [Celsius] by 10 a.m. so it was quite painful the first day we did it in that heat. We needed to bring it a bit earlier, getting there for 8.30 a.m. or 9 a.m. start, then I would train there and go in the gym, because the facilities are amazing. A training session on the pitch in the morning, then gym after that and then relax during the day. I ran on the beach and did some core work in the evening just before the sun went down. It was intense.
Q: Did you want to make a point by posting the topless picture out there to show off your physique?
A: Not really but everyone looked at me like I was a different person. People think because of the way I'm naturally built I'm bigger than I am. People can say I'm fat but I know my own body. Yeah, of course I always look big because I'm bigger built. You could say a Wayne Rooney type of body. But of course I worked hard and not just for them [the critics], I wanted to for myself, get in the best shape and that wasn't my best shape. It was a good shape to start the season off, the preseason, but now I'm working harder than ever and first game of the season I want to look 10 times better than I did in that picture. I'm working towards that and with the games and training we're doing here. Obviously we've got a new fitness coach and he's working us all hard and that's what I need.
Q: Have you been affected by criticism of your weight?
A: Yeah, I guess you've just got to take it because there is always going to be negative criticism and positive but I think both of them can make you stronger. And I think I've been unlucky because I've had a few ups and downs with different managers, but I would say I've never been out of shape. I've just, I don't know, sometimes people don't think I'm fitter than I am but that's all in the past. And, honestly, I feel really good and I'm raring to go. The minutes are only going to help me become fitter. That's what I need: minutes and hard work in training.
Q: What have you changed about your diet to improve your fitness?
A: The first season when I came, I didn't realise how big a step up it was. The preseason I had off, it wasn't really the eating it was more the work I was doing. I was doing work but I didn't realise I needed to push a bit more. I had been really fit during the season before and didn't think I needed to do that much. Obviously, when I got to United there was definitely something that wasn't right. Of course my eating has changed. What I drink has changed; not alcohol but in terms of fizzy drinks. My sleep as well. Sleep is a very important thing for me at the moment because it helps with the way your body weight changes. Sleep is very important for recovery as well. I've changed a lot. I've had a lot of help as well. I have a treat once a week, not stuff like that [fast food]. One fizzy drink or something. I want to keep in good shape. There have been times when I've been in really good shape and then I fall off it a little bit. When I'm playing, I'm in good shape. Last season when I came out of the team after playing five or six games around the Christmas period, I didn't focus much on that. Now I know what I need to do. I'll keep fit and ready. I just want to enjoy football again and hopefully I do that this season.
Q: You're into the last year of your contract. Is this a defining moment of your Manchester United career?
A: Yeah, of course, and I think that's what's most frustrating. You don't really want to be in this situation but I am and I know I have got the quality and the work especially now to become a Manchester United player. Because in my moment now it would be easy to give up in the last year or so, especially the last year I've had where many things happened on and off the pitch and all that, it was easy for me to quit and say: 'I want to go.' But I believe in myself and I believe in my qualities that I've got what it takes to be a Manchester United player and that's why I'm not giving up. Of course, if the manager comes to me and says: 'You're not a player for Manchester United, you're not a player for me,' then I'll totally accept that and find another place. But until he says that I'll keep fighting until the very last step and, like I said, I believe in myself. I know the players and the staff here believe in me, and also the fans, because I get very good support from them. I want to put their faith back to them and prove to people that I can do it.
Q: What needs to happen on your side and the club's side to make it work out for you to stay and get a new contract?
A: For me personally, I don't think I would want to sign a contract right now. Because I want to prove to people that I deserve a contract. I don't want to sign one because of blah, blah, blah, whatever happens in the next couple of months. I want to earn a contract and I want a contract because I deserve one. I don't want one because maybe in the next year or so I'm a free agent, so maybe they might look to tie me down for that. But I want to sign because I deserve it and the club want me to sign one. It's a very important next few weeks to make sure I stay injury-free, stay fit, stay hungry and I think fitness comes with confidence. I think when I'm at my fittest it's when I feel most confident and when I have both of them I know what I can do. I'm really looking forward to getting back playing and starting games in the Premier League again.
Q: The club are bound to be jumpy now that you're in your last year. How do you see the contract situation playing out?
A: I totally understand that but I know the club believe in me. I've spoken with them, I've spoken with the manager, I've had discussions, I've had meetings, I've had chats. I know they believe in me and if they really wanted to they could have cashed in on me before it got to the final year. Like I said, I'm going to give everything and I really do believe that I'll make it here and, sitting in front of you now, I feel confident and I believe in myself, I honestly do. Like I said, I would have walked away already. Even if they did pursue another left-back I'd still fight for my place and I'd be ready for whoever wanted to come and try to play left-back. Because I'm going to fight for it this year and I want to be in that starting team.
Q: What has Jose Mourinho said to you about your chances this season?
A: Obviously I've got more of a chance now because there's not really another left-back here. Ash [Young] is away. I spoke with the manager about a week after the holidays. I was in Dubai and he text me and we had a really good chat, it made me feel really confident about the upcoming season and that's why I worked really hard. I want to prove to him as well that I can be here, as well in this team.
Q: Did it make a difference having that conversation with the manager -- you would only be human to be unsure about your future?
A: Of course you would be unsure. No matter if I received that text I would have come back in really good shape. I was always going to Dubai anyway. It was a breath of fresh air when he text me. I wasn't expecting it. I was on my phone and I got the text. I spoke to him and it was really positive, really good. I'm just looking forward to the season because it's been a while now since I've started a preseason injury-free.
Q: Where were you when you got the text?
A: I was in Dubai with my girlfriend. It was funny. I was just on my phone flicking through stuff. I got the text and I accidentally clicked on it straightaway. He's probably thinking, 'Jesus Christ!' But that wasn't the case. I said to my girlfriend, 'F---, I've just opened it and I must look so weird now.' It was fine. I left it a little bit to reply because I didn't want to look too eager.
Q: Did you worry when you came off at half-time against Brighton in the FA Cup last season that this might be the end of you at United?
A: Not doubts, but there has been emotion. I was very upset but he only does stuff like that because he knows what I can do. We've had this conversation. It was literally like two days after. I hadn't spoken to him since. I was very upset. We were training and he spoke with me afterwards and he said: 'It's frustrating to see you like that when I know you can do this.' It's all positive and it's down to me to prove it to him. He said that he knows I can be the best, but he sometimes feels frustrated that I'm not doing that. He knows what I can do. That was one of the texts he sent me in the offseason. 'I know what you can do -- you can be the best but you've just got to work on a couple of things.' That's why it pushes me on more. He says these things because he knows I can do it. He knows I can be a top player. He knows I can play for Manchester United. It's horrible at times because people only see those things he says [in public]. That's fine because I'm a grown man and I can take stuff like that. I'm used to it. But the stuff inside the training ground, no one sees apart from me. It still gives me confidence.
Q: Were talks in the summer needed because of how last season went?
A: I was unsure going into the summer what was really happening. You don't really know what will happen this season, whether it will be the same as last season or not. One thing is for sure, I'm much fitter, more confident, and a different person than I was last season. I've grown and learned a lot from the situations I've been in. I don't want to be in that situation again. The way I am, the body shape, I need to be playing games. When I'm fit, I'm so confident because you know you can do all the runs and be aggressive like the manager wants. I guess the ball is in my court now and I need to do what I know I can do.
Q: Will you still be a Manchester United player at the end of the transfer window?
A: Yes, I will be unless something changes dramatically and the manager comes to me and says I'm not in his plans. I want to play football. I'm not just here to pick up my salary and do nothing. I'm young, I'm still 23 and still have a very long career and I want to play games. I can't keep sitting on the bench and let my life go on, smoking a cigar and not doing anything. It's not me. I want to be playing football. Of course this season I want to do it. I'm hoping it works out here and I play this season here. If not, I need to look at myself and maybe find another solution.
Q: How have you changed as a player and person since joining United after the 2014 World Cup and was watching this World Cup and not being involved a bit of a jolt?
A: The World Cup was devastating. Everyone wants to go to the World Cup. I missed the Euros [in 2016] because I picked up the injury that year. Obviously I was there at the World Cup before [in 2014]. I know how special it was, even though we didn't get as far as we did this time. It was still the best experience of my life and I loved it. Of course, it was horrible [missing out]. Ash definitely deserved it because he had an amazing year. I was hoping that maybe I could have gone with him but it wasn't meant to be. It was horrible sitting there watching it. It was nice they were doing so well and it was amazing, but you sit there wishing you were there. That's another thing pushing me on more because it's horrible sitting there when you've been there and you want to be there even more. The next England call-up and tournament, I want to be involved. I want to be a Manchester United player but I also want to be an England player. To do that, I need to be playing games.
Q: Is it a friendly rivalry with Ashley Young?
A: It's not really a rivalry. I get on really well with Ash. Since day one when I came in, I've been really close to Ash. I was very happy for him, especially the World Cup he had. Nah, no rivalry there. We're really good friends. When I play he's really happy and wants me to do well and vice-versa. It is a good competition because we both want to play. It only pushes us both on. In training it makes everyone try their best to get in the team. I love Ash and completely respect when he plays and when I play.
Q: Do the players think that Manchester City were 19 points better than you last season?
A: No way. Hands down, City played wonderful football last season and were a joy to watch at times. But I wouldn't say the 19-point gap is how far it actually is. You look at the games where we dropped points last season and they were the games we should really be winning. The games at home where we dropped points against lower teams. You look at our record against the top teams and maybe it was one of the best. We're doing something right at the end, but we were a bit sloppy at times and we weren't clinical enough. The amount of points we dropped at home last season wasn't good enough and we all know that. The FA Cup final that we lost [against Chelsea] was very hurtful as well. We know we're not that far behind. We know the quality we have in the squad. We've got world-class players and hopefully this season can be Manchester United's season and we click. We know if we click and everything goes well, we can be a very, very dangerous team.