Manchester United were warned about the perils of appointing Jose Mourinho but few within the club could have expected the self-proclaimed Special One to revert to type so early at Old Trafford.
The Red Devils, having abandoned the self-righteousness approach that saw David Moyes anointed as Sir Alex Ferguson’s doomed successor in 2013, turned to Mourinho and handed him a three-year deal in the summer.
Those within the corridors of power at Old Trafford knew what they were signing up to but results were perceived to be of greater importance.
The problem for Mourinho is that the results are not yet there and the 53-year-old’s running the risk of undermining his long-term goals at the Theatre of Dreams by turning on his own squad.
Sunday’s 3-1 win at Swansea City was a good chance for Mourinho to diffuse some of the crisis talk around Old Trafford. Instead, he continued on walking down a well-trodden warpath, turning his sights on the perceived weaker members dressing room.
In the build-up to the game at the Liberty Stadium, Mourinho claimed Shaw had told him on the morning of the match that he was unavailable for selection against the Swans and launched a wider tirade at United’s absentees after the 3-1 win.
There is a difference between the brave, who want to play at any cost, and the ones for whom a little pain can make a difference.
If I were to speak with the many great football people of this team, they will say they played many times without being 100 per cent.
We have players on the pitch with problems. In every sport, how many times do you play and you’re not 100 per cent?
Of course, it is not just the players, it is the players and the people that surround the players.’
Shaw, 21, is said to be ‘baffled’ at the criticism and the defender will surely be questioning his manager’s decision to publicly criticise him.
The England international has, of course, only recently returned from an 11-month lay-off after a horrific double leg break.
While Shaw may have been passed fit by the medical team, he understands his body more than a doctor and should be able to make his own calls on his fitness.
To question Shaw’s application at this stage of his recovery is a dangerous precedent to set for Mourinho. What would his reaction have been had Shaw suffered a recurrence of his injury against the Swans?
One of Mourinho’s former players, Mark Schwarzer, knows all about the Special One’s psychology skills having played under him at Chelsea and the Australian believes he publicly criticises his players to test their commitment to his cause.
‘He wants to be able to give people criticism,’ said Schwarzer.
‘He wants people to be able to take it on the chin, roll their sleeves up and prove him wrong.
‘He loves that. Ultimately, he will give you so much more respect if you respond in that manner. The ones that sulk are the ones that he despise.’
It’s not the first time Mourinho’s criticised Shaw in public this season, having ripped the defender for his performance against Watford during United’s 3-1 defeat in September.
The 53-year-old slammed Shaw for his defending in the build-up to Camilo Zuniga’s crucial second goal for the Hornets.
While Shaw’s performances have hardly been spectacular, the criticism looks all the more strange when others such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic have been let off the hook, despite a series of poor displays.
Mourinho may well be testing Shaw but the Special One’s divisive tactics are threatening to destabilise his squad.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan is another who has fallen victim to Mourinho’s management style. The Armenian, voted the Bundesliga’s best player last term, has played just 24 minutes of football since September 10th.
Mourinho resisted calls to bring the midfielder back into the squad during the last six weeks but he was named as a sub against Fenerbahce. After being brought on when the side was 2-0 down, Mkhitaryan was then left out of Sunday’s squad to face Swansea.
The 27-year-old is an infinitely better option than Jesse Lingard but when questioned on Mkhitaryan’s absence Mourinho simply said he ‘needed to do better’ to get in the team.
During his Chelsea days, Mourinho would regularly relieve pressure on his side by inviting more spotlight onto himself. These days, the Special One seems to be creating his own problems.
At Real Madrid, Mourinho got wind of a mole within the group who was revealing tactics and team sheets to the press. Like the paranoid Mafia boss that smells a rat, Mourinho’s calling out members of his own squad to consolidate his own power.
Turmoil usually awaits Mourinho during his dreaded third seasons at a club but he looks to be inviting trouble far earlier than ever before with United.
Only results will make the trouble worth it.