Teden Mengi was given his first minutes for the Manchester United first team in their 2-1 win against LASK. The defender came off the bench for his debut in the 84th minute, replacing Timothy Fosu-Mensah at right-back. This season, the 18-year-old has appeared 15 times in Premier League 2 and has been a solid player for the academy since he joined.
Manchester United’s centre-back partnership of Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof has been decent this season, but they are prone to error. While both are good on the ball and Maguire good in the air, neither posses the pace to deal with quick attackers running behind their high line. According to the Mirror, Manchester United have put other transfers on hold as they attempt to complete the signing of Jadon Sancho, and with inconsistent defenders in the squad, it might be time to give Mengi some minutes.
Can 18-Year-Old Teden Mengi Solve Manchester United’s Problems in Defence?
Taking His Chance
The young centre-back joined Manchester United’s academy in 2018. Playing with the under-16s, he took his opportunities and was swiftly promoted to the U-18 squad. A born leader, Teden Mengi captained the squad to the FA Youth Cup semi-finals this season. He has also impressed for the under-23s in PL2, and boss Neil Wood is confident he has the ability for first-team football.
“He came up to us quite early on in the season and, a bit like Brandon (Williams) in a sense, he came from the Under-18s and took his chance. He played really well and he kept his place in the team,” Wood told the Manchester Evening News in May.
We’ll be looking to work with him next season and he’s one [player] we want to ‘do a Brandon’ with, push him on and the goal is to try and get him pushed up into that first team if we can.”
There is a clear pathway between Manchester United’s reputable academy set up and their first team. Recently Mason Greenwood and Brandon Williams have made the jump. The two are now getting regular minutes and are taking their chances to impress. With his debut out of the way, Mengi will now work to follow that path and earn himself more appearances.
A Tale of Inconsistency
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has favoured the partnership of Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof this season. Nevertheless, there are clear problems with the pair. Maguire lacks pace, but other abilities make up for it. His strength and ability on the ball are of the essence, and his leadership is important to this young Manchester United side. On the other hand, the Swede doesn’t have much more pace and lacks strength and quality in the air.
According to the Evening Standard, Solskjaer sees top-class quality in Eric Bailly. He believes the Ivorian is the most likely to break up the partnership from inside the club. His speed, strength, and natural confidence and talent on the ball are assets to the club. Unfortunately, the defender has been prone to injury and missed out on a lot of action. Furthermore, Bailly is also inconsistent and has some work to do positionally.
Other options in the club include the young Axel Tuanzebe. The English defender has the necessary qualities and was set to feature regularly for the first team this season. Unfortunately, he was struck with injury, and the plans to use him fell apart. Returning from a loan is experienced defender Chris Smalling. The defence-first centre-back is not the type of player that Ole wants but could be a good back up option if he accepts a place on the bench after his great season in Serie A with AS Roma.
With the fourth fastest running speed in the whole squad, Teden Mengi would solve United’s pace problem. The 18-year-old is also good on the ball and has natural leadership qualities. Even if he isn’t the first name on the team sheet every time, regular first-team football would aid his development.
United’s Financial Situation
Borussia Dortmund have set a €120 million price tag for Jadon Sancho, who is Ole’s number one target this summer. The price, coupled with a long transfer saga could leave United with little to no room for other transfers in this window.
Another potential target is the experienced Kalidou Koulibaly. His £70 million valuation might not fit in with the budget at Old Trafford. To add fuel to the fire, their cross-town rivals Manchester City are also in the running for the Senegalese, despite signing Nathan Aké from Bournemouth. Alas, the defender has expressed his loyalty to his current club, Napoli.
Koulibaly told La Gazzetta Dello Sport “I am 100 percent Napoli and it bothers me to be linked, every day, to this or that European club.”
In Manchester United’s situation, it would do no harm to give Teden Mengi more first-team minutes next season. The youngster has shown qualities which the senior squad need, and arrivals aren’t certain. This would be the only way to know if the under-18’s captain is ready for the pressure of Old Trafford.