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Tuesday 25 June 2019

Luke Shaw: Manchester United can be unstoppable on Europa League trophy mission

Manchester United's Luke Shaw is back in favour and eyeing European success
Manchester United's Luke Shaw is back in favour and eyeing European success

Luke Shaw believes Manchester United have what it takes to become "unstoppable" in their quest for Europa League glory.

Glimmers of promise have been counterbalanced by frustrating individual and collective displays during Jose Mourinho's first season in the Old Trafford dugout.

An unhappy knack of drawing matches they have dominated means United are scrapping for a top-four finish rather than the Premier League crown, although the Europa League offers a fail-safe as they bid to return to the Champions League.

Mourinho's men continue their tilt at continental trophy success when they face Anderlecht in the first leg of their quarter-final on Thursday - a trip to Belgium that Shaw, back from the cold, says they approach brimming with confidence.

"It was a really good win and a really important one," he said of United's 3-0 weekend win at Sunderland.

"We needed to win to fight for that top-four spot and this game should kick us to go on a winning run between now and the end of the season.

"Every single game is massive now, but I think the one on Thursday is huge.

"We have to treat every game in that competition now like it's a final. We want to win that tournament.

"We fight for whatever we have got left, I just think we have to have that mentality where every game is a cup final and not worry about which competition it is in.

"But, yeah, the Europa League is a massive thing for us now - it's a trophy and it gives us qualification for the Champions League."

While Community Shield and EFL Cup glory have been welcome boons, winning the Europa League, given all it entails, would undoubtedly trump both.

"I think we have to look at that as the priority now," Shaw said. "We've got to fight for that.

"Anderlecht will be tough, every team left in this stage of the competition will have quality.

"We've got to focus all week on what their strengths and weaknesses are, but most of all we need to focus on ourselves, what we do and how we play.

"With the players we have got, we can be unstoppable."

Shaw was overlooked for the squad when heading to St Etienne and Rostov, but a whirlwind week has given him hope of being involved in Belgium.

The 21-year-old's United future looked bleaker than ever when publicly eviscerated by Mourinho, yet a meeting with the manager led to a surprise substitute appearance against Everton and a start at Sunderland, with the left-back performing impressively at the Stadium of Light.

"I've got a massive smile on my face," Shaw said after just his second Premier League start in over five months.

"It's great to have got 60 minutes under my belt and to help the team get the victory we needed.

"I wanted to play 90 minutes but it is the manager's call and I think the manager made a good decision to sort of make sure I didn't get that second yellow.

"I felt really good, felt really fit and now on from here I just want to work hard in training and keep playing games. I feel really good, I feel really confident.

"I took what the manager said on board and, like I said, I will work hard until the end.

"I want to be at this place and hopefully I can carry on giving great performances for the club until the end of the season."

United certainly need players to step up in the closing weeks of the campaign - a challenge few expect Zlatan Ibrahimovic to shirk.

After taking his goal tally to 28 at the Stadium of Light, the 35-year-old compared himself to Benjamin Button, the fictional character who ages in reverse.

"Listen, whatever he says he backs up," Shaw said with a laugh . "He always delivers and he delivers at the most important times.

"At Sunderland he was really good again, setting up (Marcus) Rashford's goal at the end and obviously scoring the important goal for us at the start.

"It is wonderful to have a great player like him in our team and hopefully he keeps going until the end of the season and helping us."

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