Manchester United left-back Cameron Borthwick-Jackson was loaned to Wolverhampton Wanderers for the entire 2016/17 season. Under former Wolves manager Walter Zenga, the now 20-year-old made seven appearances for Wolves in the EFL Cup and the Championship. Borthwick-Jackson was booked twice in those matches but has yet to feature again for the first team under the management of Paul Lambert. Under the guidance of Louis van Gaal at United, Borthwick-Jackson made 14 first team appearances with Luke Shaw on the sidelines through injury during the 2015/16 season at the club. The then 19-year-old settled well and did what he needed to do on the pitch, even when introduced in the 42nd minute away to Liverpool at Anfield – with United earning a 1-0 victory late in the match.
Borthwick-Jackson was tipped to make a meteoric rise from the youth setup at United, earning regular first team appearances, which would have helped his development. The sacking of Van Gaal and the arrival of Jose Mourinho was something that stopped that from happening, with the player being told he was surplus to requirements this season and that he could go out for the entire season on loan. Many thought a Premier League team would be the destination for Borthwick-Jackson, who had proved that he was capable of playing in that league. When Wolves were touted as his destination, and the Championship being a tough league, it was expected that he would do well and his rise to fame would be helped implicitly. Things have not been going all that well for Borthwick-Jackson though.
Wolves manager Lambert was quoted by the Express and Star about the 20-year-old being short of match fitness and needing to do a lot more to get into the first team this season. Lambert said:
“I think Cameron [Borthwick-Jackson] is falling short at the minute. He would have to show a lot more. He’s doing alright in training but there’s more he has to do. It’s a bit of lack of fitness as well, even though he’s played in the under-23s. At this moment in time, he needs more.”
Borthwick-Jackson last played for the Wolves first team on the 5th November 2016 in a 3-2 defeat at home to Derby County. Since then, Lambert has preferred Matt Doherty or even George Saville ahead of Borthwick-Jackson, which has been described as a lack of match fitness – which can only be changed with the player getting matches, whether at first team or U23 level. Borthwick-Jackson has played for Wolves U23’s this season, but more recently he has played for Nicky Butt’s U23 side back at United. In the 3-1 victory over Sunderland on Monday evening, Borthwick-Jackson played 90 minutes, doing the same a few weeks previous as United bowed out of the Premier League International Cup with a 2-0 defeat to Porto. The stuttering nature of his career thus far could cause problems for Borthwick-Jackson, who will be under scrutiny by Mourinho as he looks to finalise his squad for next season, where United will be expected to challenge for the Premier League title.
Another loan spell for the 20-year-old may be on the cards, possible with a more solid structure being set up for the player – an agreed number of matches to be played in the first team, a recall clause being placed in the agreement should that not happen, which was presumed to be part of the loan agreement at Wolves this season. Many expected Borthwick-Jackson to be recalled by United during the January transfer window, but that never happened. This season has been a write-off for Borthwick-Jackson, who may well be looking for another club next season, whether permanently, or for another loan spell. What has happened at Wolves may see a lower level club be more beneficial for the player, as it will be seen as the player who has not been putting in the work, not the loan club, which could well be the case.
The fact that Borthwick-Jackson was playing well in the United first team last season, to not playing at all for Wolves, a team struggling in the Championship this season, seems very strange. Why would a player who in effect established himself in the United first team, throw it all away whilst on loan? There would at least be a 50/50 responsibility for the player doing so badly, but Paul Lambert seems to blame the player, which could well be the case. It would seem that Borthwick-Jackson may have a battle on his hands to earn himself a career in the world of football, with his career at United seemingly hanging in the balance.
It would be unfair to say Borthwick-Jackson may fail at United, as three days after becoming the new United manager, Mourinho, presumably, gave the go-ahead to sign Borthwick-Jackson to a new contract, which would keep him at the club until June 2020, with the option of a further year being added on. Mourinho would need to look at the player himself, see what makes him tick and see if he would fit into his plans. Writing him off after this failed loan spell would be tough and also something that could come back and bite the club. Another loan spell may well be on the cards into next season, but with Luke Shaw struggling to make the left-back position his own and Mourinho confirming that Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo, and Matteo Darmian were all ahead of the former Southampton man, would suggest that Borthwick-Jackson may have a look in next season.
This will certainly be an interesting one to watch. If Borthwick-Jackson can fight his way back into the Wolves first team, it will show Mourinho what he has, which may well define his Manchester United career.
Written by Mike Wilson