“Manchester United have another very gifted young player on their books, managing his career properly might lead to something really special”. Little over a year later, things haven’t gone quite to plan for this talented youngster. Demetri or ‘Demi’ Mitchell as he’s affectionately dubbed at the club is a skilful winger with exceptional speed and technique and the flair for the spectacular.
A major ankle injury side-lined the Manchester-born attacker for five months in his final year at Under-18 level, and upon his return in the February of that season he was out again with a shin splints problem that ended a season where he would’ve likely made his Under-21 bow which, according to former Under-18 manager Paul McGuinness, arose as he was “trying that hard to get back.” Due to other minor injuries, he made his second return, this time with the Under-21s, in the second half of the season but made only one start and a few substitute appearances which meant that the 2015/16 season was another frustrating one for him. However, things seem like they might be turning back around for him.
Left-footed and comfortable on either wing, in attacking midfield whilst also excelling upfront, Mitchell is a very versatile player who is capable of making each of these positions appear to be his best one, something that could greatly aid his quest for a first-team opportunity down the line. A clinical finisher, a skilled dribbler in tight spaces and a good set-piece taker too, he has various strings to his bow and is the sort of player that you can just picture getting fans off their seats at Old Trafford week-after-week. Defenders hate being one-on-one against him whereas his teammates eagerly seek to create one-on-one opportunities for him, whether that’s him being played through on goal with just the keeper to beat or out wide with just a fullback to beat. Recognised at England Under-16, 17 and 18 level and winning the England Under-17 European Championships in 2014, he’ll be looking to get some more starts under his belt at club-level before pushing on to get back into the international fold.
He’s being treated with caution by coaches at United as they no doubt know the talent that they have on their hands but he’s made an impressive start to the new season. Two goals from two substitute appearances against experienced Port Vale and Salford City sides highlighted his ability to, along with some of his colleagues, handle the physicality of older opponents but also stick to their own game and do what they do best on the ball, and Mitchell has on numerous occasions shown his ability to mix it when it comes to the aggressive side of the game. Moving into the Premier League 2 campaign with the newly named Under-23s, Mitchell, again on the bench, again came on and showed his worth, grabbing a late winner in what was a tightly contested affair which in all honesty Leicester edged. Pace, composure and flair were all showcased from the substitute and he raced on to a magnificent volleyed kick from keeper Sam Johnstone to get in behind the Leicester defence and, whilst holding off the challenge of a defender, hit an inch perfect half volley from all of 25 yards out over the head of their helpless goalkeeper – the game was calling out for a genuine moment of quality and he delivered.
Mitchell was a team mate of Marcus Rashford’s at most levels and both also played for the esteemed Fletcher Moss Rangers, a youth side in Manchester that has produced the likes of Wes Brown, Ravel Morrison and Danny Welbeck amongst many others and it was really Mitchell’s first initial injury that gave Marcus his opportunity to start regularly at Under-18 level and catch the eye. Ask most coaches at the club and opinion would be split on who was the better prospect between the two however both have always been expected to make it. Mitchell would’ve been expected to be the first of the two to breakthrough no doubt but due to his injury woe, he wasn’t able to capitalise, which must have been especially disappointing given Louis van Gaal’s willingness to play youngsters during his tenure. Rashford has fulfilled the expectations placed upon him, albeit earlier than expected, and he’d surely be glad to see Mitchell eventually join him in the first-team fold. No one that has observed a game of Demetri’s would hate to be in the position of wondering what could have been but if his recent performances and obvious determination upon his return is any indicator, he is more than ready to make up for lost time and show what he can truly do, and if he can do that, there is little doubt he’ll be catching the eye of a certain Mr Mourinho.