Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho believes full-back Luke Shaw is going through a "difficult period" as he tries to break back into the first team.
Shaw, 21, has made just seven Premier League appearances this season, having missed most of 2015-16 due to a broken leg.
Questions have been raised over the England international's future as he battles to earn a spot in Mourinho's side.
The Portuguese tactician said injuries and bad timing have played their part for Shaw, who joined the club from Southampton in June 2014.
"You try to have in the squad the players with more minutes, the players in better shape, in better condition," Mourinho said.
"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."
United are on a 16-match unbeaten run in all competitions and sit sixth in the Premier League ahead of a trip to Stoke City on Saturday.