Luke Shaw says Erik ten Hag has brought the feel-good factor back to Old Trafford as Manchester United attempt to end their six-year wait for a trophy in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final.
The Old Trafford giants are synonymous with success and silverware, but things have gone awry since Sir Alex Ferguson bowed out on top in 2013.
United’s only major trophies since then have been the 2016 FA Cup and the following year’s EFL Cup and Europa League successes, with the club currently on their worst trophy drought in 40 years.
Ending that wait looked a long way away last season as the ragged, rudderless Red Devils stumbled home with their lowest Premier League points tally having been knocked out of every cup by mid-March.
But the strides made under summer appointment Ten Hag means they are now the only team in Europe’s top five leagues fighting on four fronts and have a shot of glory against Newcastle in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final.
“I think there’s a lot more enjoyment now back in around the place – not just on the pitch but off it,” long-serving United left-back Shaw told the PA news agency.
“The staff around the training ground seem much more happier and in a much better place, and I think it shows on the pitch.
“I think we’ve still got a lot to improve on, but I think the signs right now are in a really good moment to show that we’re pushing in the right place.
“Of course still in four competitions and in a massive final that means a lot to us.
“It feels like we’re in a really good path and there’s a lot of enjoyment.
“The sort of feel-good factor’s back here and I think that’s all we really need to focus on.”
Shaw believes winning Sunday’s final could act as a “stepping stone” for further success as he focuses on the future having dealt with plenty of ups and down since joining United in 2014.
The 27-year-old made a rollercoaster motion when summing up his time at the club – a topsy-turvy period that has involved injuries, poor form and public criticism from former boss Jose Mourinho.
“I think I’ve always had the same motivation,” Shaw said.
“In this job, at this club, I think it’s normal you’re always going to have doubters, so you just have to sort of ignore them kind of things and just focus on the things you’re doing well.
“For me, always the most important people to listen to are your team-mates, your manager and the people at home. They’re the ones that know you best.
“I think that’s all really you need to focus on and ignore the hate and the doubt because it’s normal. It’s the job. It’s the biggest club in the world, it’s going to come.
“You just need to ignore that and have good people around you and I think we do here at this club.”
That group are desperate to win under the Wembley arch on Sunday – something that would be particularly special for Shaw.
Injured for United’s FA Cup and Europa League wins, he was overlooked by Mourinho for their 2017 EFL Cup triumph as well as their 2018 FA Cup final loss.
Shaw finally played in a cup final two years ago, only for United to lose on penalties to Villarreal – just as he did with England at Wembley in the Euro 2020 final that he had opened the scoring in.
“It would mean a lot,” he with a smile when asked about the chance to win a first cup final as a starter. “I’ve been here a long, long time now and obviously been involved in a final where we lost.
“We’ve won a couple of trophies where I’ve played but obviously been injured in the final and we had won.
“The feelings then were still great but of course it would mean a lot to be able to play in the final and win it after such a long time.”
Shaw has matured a lot during his eight and a half years at United and grown as leader under Ten Hag, forming part of a core group that drive standards.
Captain Harry Maguire and Sunday’s likely skipper Bruno Fernandes are obviously part of that, so too the likes of Raphael Varane, Casemiro and Lisandro Martinez.
Shaw called the latter an “absolute monster” and has been blown away by the Argentina defender since joining from Ajax.
“I could see his qualities, feel the passion that he brings, how aggressive he is and he’s got an amazing left foot,” Shaw said of his first impressions of Martinez.
“With the ball he’s so composed, so good and I think a lot of football nowadays is how well the centre-back can play out. But I think, for me, he’s got everything.
“There was obviously a lot of question over his height at the start, which, for me, was nonsense, really.
“He reads the game so well. With someone that intelligent, I don’t think it matters how tall you are or not, wherever you play, as long as you read the game well.
“For me, he does that and I love playing next to him. He’s an amazing player and still really young. He’s only going to get better and better, I think.”