'People can say that I'm fat, but I know my own body' - Luke Shaw on his physique and text messages with Jose Mourinho
Luke Shaw has had his problems at Manchester United: a badly broken leg threatened his career; a severe loss of form threw doubt over his Old Trafford future; and a manager in Jose Mourinho whose sharp tongue has shredded his confidence.
Now Shaw, just 23, has been the victim of fat-shaming on social media. He posted a picture of himself topless on holiday in Dubai and the spiteful comments over his weight and body shape have left a mark.
Shaw, though, says he is using it all as motivation as he approaches a critical season, having arrived at United four years ago as one of England's most highly-rated young players.
And it also appears to have helped lead to a shift in the relationship with his manager.
As a result of his criticism and treatment of Shaw, who was hauled off at half-time against Brighton in March - a humiliation the former Southampton player will never forget - Mourinho was accused of bullying the young defender.
It was as though he was determined to force Shaw's departure. But, it seems, there is more to the Portuguese than that. Shaw has now revealed a different, more paternal side to his manager's personality.
"I've never doubted I could have a future at Manchester United, but there has been emotion," said Shaw. "I was very upset (when I was taken off at half-time) but he only does stuff like that because he knows what I can do.
"We've had this conversation. 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 off-season. '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. He says these things because he knows I can do it. He knows I can be a top player.
"It's horrible at times because people only see those things he says (in public). But the stuff inside the training ground, no one sees apart from me and that gives me confidence.
"We have only spoken a little bit over the summer, but after the Brighton game, I was very upset. He spoke with me after training 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."
Mourinho told Shaw over the summer that he wants him to stay, even though the left-back is entering the final year of his contract.
"Unless something changes dramatically, and the manager says I'm not in his plans, I'll still be a Manchester United player.
"I want to play football. I'm not just here to pick up my salary and do nothing. I'm only 23 and hopefully have a very long career ahead of me.
"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 can't keep sitting on the bench, smoking a cigar, not doing anything.
"It's not me. I want to be playing football. 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."
Shaw admits that he was badly stung when pictures of him topless on holiday in Dubai led to days of spiteful comments. "I've had times in the past where maybe it has been fair and I haven't been in the best shape possible. But I'm feeling really good.
"I guess you've just got to take it, because there is always going to be negative criticism as well as positive. I think both of them can make you stronger.
"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.
"People think, because of the way that I'm naturally built, I'm bigger than I am. Of course, people can say that I'm fat, but I know my own body.
"I always look big because I'm bigger built. I'm sort of, you could say, a Wayne Rooney type of body.
"But I've worked hard on my fitness over the summer, not just because of the criticism and the pictures. I wanted to get in the best shape and that wasn't my best shape. I need hard work and that's what I'm getting.
"The first season when I came to Manchester United, I didn't realise how big a step up it was. I had been really fit during the season before and didn't think I needed to do that much.
"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 because it helps with the way your body weight changes. Sleep is very important for recovery as well.
"I've changed a lot. Now I know what I need to do. I'll keep fit and ready.
I just want to enjoy football again and hopefully I can do that this season.
"You don't really want to be in this situation," Shaw added. "I know I have got the quality and the mentality, especially now, to become a Manchester United player. It would be easy to give up (after what happened in the last year or so). But I believe in myself and I believe in my qualities. I'll keep fighting."
It could yet be his last at Old Trafford, though. Shaw's refusal to quit, when many others would have done so, is admirable, but he is now effectively running down his contract. A player signed for £27m four years ago could leave for a fraction of that in 12 months' time.
© Daily Telegraph, London