Luke on Granada, Leicester and England
Luke Shaw is a man in form, with his stellar performances at left-back for Manchester United this season helping secure the chance of a first international cap since 2018.
Ahead of next week's fortnight break from domestic football, we sat down with our no.23 to discuss what breaking back into Gareth Southgate's Three Lions reckoning means.
But that wasn't the only topic of conversation, as Luke was also more than happy to run the rule over upcoming Emirates FA Cup opponents Leicester City, as well as analysing what our Europa League tie with La Liga side Granada will entail.
You can watch the video below, as well as reading the full Q&A...
Firstly, just a quick word on the draw. Granada, another Spanish team, in the quarter-finals. Your thoughts on that…
“I think now in the quarter-finals, any draw isn’t going to be easy. There’s obviously a reason why they’re there. We need to be cautious of them, we know it’s going to be a hard game but I think people will look at it like we’re the favourites. We just need to go in with confidence and belief that we can get through to the next round. I have no feelings towards why we can’t. Like I said, we need to be confident and ready but if we play our game, I’m sure we’ll go through.”
When you get to this stage and they’ve already made the semi-final draw as well, do you start looking at it and plotting your way through? Or do you try and not get ahead of yourself?
“I think everyone starts plotting, you know? It is normal. But of course, like I said, we know we’ve got a game first before the semis so we need to take that seriously. We need to focus on that. It’s a competition we massively want to win and we think we can win it, so we need to take each opponent seriously and, when that game comes, we need to be ready for it.”
Do you feel you have a bit of unfinished business in the Europa League? Of course it didn’t happen for you in 2017, do you want to get your hands on that?
“100 per cent. Of course I was very happy and proud that the lads won it but it’s very different when you’re there but you’re not involved, you haven’t got the kit. Like I said, I was very happy for them but it’s also hard because you don’t feel as involved. Last season, as well, we got to the semis and I got that bad injury again that sort of ruled me out for the rest of the season and I missed out on that, on trying to help the team to reach the final then. Of course now, it’s a different scenario so hopefully I can stay fit and, like you said, I feel like I have unfinished business in this competition and it’s one I want to win personally.”
Another cup competition we’re going strong in, the FA Cup, this weekend. First of all, I know no-one makes excuses at United, but I was just wondering how difficult it is for athletes to play Thursday, then Sunday? Or does the fact you’re winning help ease some of the painful legacy?
“I think, the last couple weeks, the results have been really good. I think everyone knows how tough it is when you’re in the Europa League. Of course, with the Thursday-Sundays, it’s just normal. It does come quick and fast but we’re professionals. This is our job, we need to be ready for it. We need to be able to rest and recover and be able to play in three days. They’re all important games and it’s getting to the end of the season now where every game matters. They’re big games and it’s another cup competition that we feel that we can win, so Leicester’s going to be a very hard game. They’re a very good team and, like I said, it’s one we need to be up for and one that we believe that we can win.”
When we went there on the last day of last season that was a one-off, winner-takes-all game so I was wondering if that sort of experience can help us?
“Of course. Unfortunately I wasn’t there for that one as well, so I missed out on that one, knowing my luck! But we obviously played them at their ground earlier on in the season. I think it was a 2-2 draw then [on Boxing Day]. We know what the game’s going to be like. It’s good for us that we’re getting players back fit. Hopefully we’ll have our whole squad back, everyone fit and ready to go, so it’s one we’re looking forward to. Like I said, another cup competition that we feel we can win. We need to go there all guns blazing and show why we deserve to be in the semis.”
I guess you know a few of their lads from games against them and international duty and so on. How difficult is it for a defence against Leicester, the likes of [Jamie] Vardy and others, a sort of moveable feast of players they’ve got in midfield… you’re never quite sure which formation they’re going to have…
“They’ve got some brilliant players, especially in the last game [Youri] Tielemans and [James] Maddison were brilliant in midfield. You have to hold your hands up and say sometimes they’re really good and sort of dictated the game. We all felt that, we all knew that and we spoke afterwards about it. Of course, with the likes of Vardy up front, you’ve always got to be on your toes and ready for the balls in behind because if you get caught flat-footed then you know you’re in big trouble. We know their dangers, we know their qualities so we’ve played enough against them now to know what’s needed to be done and we need to deliver on Sunday because it’s a big competition and a big game that we need to win.”
But of course we’ve won nine away games in the league, we’ve won at the San Siro and in Turin. All these away games must give us a lot of confidence wherever we go in these competitions?
“Massively. Of course our away record is really good at the moment. It won’t mean anything if we don’t win on Sunday. We need to keep that good away form up. We need to get back to delivering good performances. I know, of course, the result is what matters like the other night. That was the main important thing, was the result, but we need to get back to how we want to play and have a good performance with a good win.”
You’re going to be involved in the internationals, fingers crossed, over the next couple of weeks. Had you ever not given up, but lost a bit of hope for international football?
“Yeah, I think so. At times, I made bad mistakes, with maybe pulling out from international duty, maybe at times when I shouldn’t have. That was down to me. Of course, back then, I was going through hard times. There was in the back of my mind, especially my family and my girlfriend, they thought that it was done. At the start of the season, I had ambitions and sat down with my girlfriend and said that I wanted to get back in the England squad, doing everything I can to get back in there. You know, of course with my form, I thought there was a bigger chance than ever that I could be back in it. Gladly, Gareth [Southgate]’s given me another opportunity to be involved in there, so I’m just really happy and honoured to be selected again. Hopefully, I can show Gareth why I deserve a spot in the squad.”
Do you allow yourself to think ahead and about major tournaments coming up? I read somewhere that you had been particularly devastated for missing out on the World Cup in 2018. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but do you think that you want to be in the next one and the next one?
“Of course, I think it was expected, I don’t think my form wasn’t brilliant back then. I wasn’t playing too much. Of course, you always have hope as an England player to go to big tournaments like that and you know, they did an amazing World Cup that year. They did really well and I was really happy to sit and watch them but it’s one of them where you want to be involved. The way it was going, I think the England squad is really strong squad at the moment. Good times are coming with tournaments and what-not and you want to be even more involved. It’s important now to maybe show Gareth why I deserve a spot in that squad. You know, hopefully I can grab a place in the Euros squad to come.”
We know that you have been through some bad times. Does that mean that you’re even more determined to enjoy and make the most of these times?
“100 per cent. Like you say, enjoy it is the most important thing. I’m just going to go [to] England [duty], be myself, enjoy being back with the squad. It’s a massive honour to play for your country and whether I play or not, to be back in the squad is unbelievable for me and I’m really happy that I’m able to be in the squad.”