Manchester United return to action on Friday when they travel to London to face Tottenham Hotspur. The return of key first-team players such as Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba from injury will be under the spotlight. Despite this, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men could play up to 16 games in the upcoming weeks. Squad rotation is going to be key to success, which, for many younger players, could provide opportunity. Here, Last Word On Football will take a look at some of the players which could shine as Manchester United look to succeed in three competitions: the Premier League; Europa League; and FA Cup.
Manchester United: Which Youth Players Could Impress Upon Premier League Return
Mason Greenwood has already played a big role in the first-team throughout the 19/20 campaign. 12 goals in 36 games, mainly as a substitute, is an extremely encouraging return for an 18-year-old. Greenwood has proven that he is ready for first-team football, and his rapid development over the last 12 months has been frightening. As he continues to grow physically, he will only become more accustomed to the first-team game, being ever more menacing to opposition defences.
The arrival of Odion Ighalo has aided Greenwood. On the face of things, it looks like a hindrance. After all, a thirty-year-old addition taking up more minutes is not conducive with good youth development. However, at only eighteen, and not physically developed, too much game time could hinder his progress. Ighalo’s presence has allowed Greenwood to be used more sparingly, ensuring he is not burned out, and maintaining a high level of performance.
The continuation of the season and the three competitions remaining may be a perfect opportunity for Greenwood to take a bigger role. The FA Cup and Premier League fixtures against so-called “lesser” opposition should be targeted to allow Greenwood to flourish, and end the campaign full of confidence.
Angel Gomes’ contract is due to end at the end of the month. Reports suggest that discussions are ongoing and that United are confident of a positive outcome. Marcus Rashford’s fitness issues could provide opportunities for Gomes to gain minutes. Rashford is fit again after a lengthy spell out with a back injury, however, he will not play every game. Dan James’ impressive, yet inconsistent debut campaign means Gomes may have competition on the wings. The introduction of five substitutes means that the 19-year-old may earn minutes on the pitch as a substitute.
Reportedly, the issue with Gomes’ contract negotiations is playing time. If the academy graduate is going to remain at Old Trafford, the next few weeks will be pivotal in making his mind up. A handful of starts and substitute appearances may be enough to keep Gomes in Manchester for years to come.
The wildcard pick of players who could impress is Hannibal Mejbri. The Frenchman joined United from AS Monaco last year to play in the U18 set-up. Throughout the campaign, Mejbri proved to academy staff that he is far beyond that level. As a result, he is likely to join up with the U23 and first-team.
The 17-year-old is a central midfielder who many believe to be worthy of first-team minutes. He is gaining plaudits for his technical and physical abilities. Courtesy of The Athletic, a Manchester United source said of Mejbri: “He is composed, can go past a player and break a line. He’ll feint to strike then drag it and shoot the other way.”
Mejbri joined select first-team training sessions throughout his year at Old Trafford. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer rates Mejbri highly, therefore, it is not over-ambitious to expect to see Mejbri collect first-team minutes. Once again, the five substitute rule may prove advantageous to the Frenchman.
Whilst minutes may be limited this season, you can expect Mejbri, and many other of the current Manchester United academy crop, to have big futures in the game.
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