Jose Mourinho has confirmed that Luke Shaw's lack of presence with the Manchester United first-team has been because of his fitness problems during the course of the campaign and agrees that he is facing a "difficult period" at the moment.

The England international has made just six starts in the Premier League thus far this season, and after starting the season as the manager's first choice, he is now behind Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind and Matteo Darmian in the pecking order for a place at left-back. Shaw made a return at the start of the campaign after missing almost the entirety of last season owing to a double leg fracture.

The 21-year-old made a strong start to the season, but was chastised by the manager following their loss to Watford and was again publicly rebuked after he pulled out of their game against Swansea with a groin injury. The injury has kept him out until the New Year but he returned to fitness prior to their game against Reading in the third round of the FA Cup.

However, Mourinho has confirmed that he was in line to start the game against The Royals, but was diagnosed with illness on the morning of the match. The manager has admitted that his lack of match fitness is the main reason he is selecting other players ahead of Shaw, and the defender is likely to face a long road ahead to reclaim his starting XI spot.

"Of course, you try to have in the squad the players with more minutes, the players in better shape, in better condition," Mourinho said, as quoted by the Manchester Evening News.

"In Luke Shaw's case, even in the game against Reading, when he could have started the game and had 90 minutes, in the morning of the game he was ill and not ready to play."

"So even in that match, which could have been good for him, he was not able to play, so he's having a difficult period," the Portuguese coach added.

Meanwhile, Shaw's agent has rubbished reports that suggested United were ready to part ways with his client this summer. Jonathan Barnett spoke exclusively to IBTimes UK and made it clear that both Shaw and the club were happy with the situation and that he will remain at Old Trafford for the foreseeable future.

Luke Shaw
Luke Shaw needs to improve his fitness in order to regularly feature in the Manchester United match day squad Getty