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Rise To Fame: Joe Rothwell

‘A cultured midfielder who lives to drive forward and set up attacks.’ United have been linked with an almost endless list of players who fit this description this summer, but they may already have one in the shape of 19-year-old Joe Rothwell.

He joined the club at the age of six and has worked his way through the ranks, captaining the U18 side once and featuring regularly for Warren Joyce’s Under-21 side. His partnership with Ben Pearson has developed through their time together in both youth teams, and it was Rothwell’s ability to control games from the middle of the pitch that saw him offered his first professional contract last summer.

His footballing education has been extensive, with impressive performances in the UEFA Youth League last season for Nicky Butt’s Under-19 side and a call up to the England Under-19 set up the notable highlights. Last year’s European adventure was very important for all the youngster’s involved, and it allowed Rothwell to develop further as a player as he adapted to the nuances of European football. His personal campaign culminated in the 2-0 win over Real Sociedad, where Rothwell was able to get on the score sheet with a classy finish.

Over the last 12 months, Rothwell’s stock has risen tremendously at the club, with many tipping him for a great future. Following that victory over Sociedad last November, Nicky Butt was full of praise for Rothwell, but was insistent that the player has all the attributes to score more goals from midfield;

“Joe has a great burst of energy and can surge through. It’s something he has to work on – he can do that more often. He knows that and he did that against Real Sociedad.”

Earlier this summer Darren Fletcher also spoke about Rothwell, and believes the youngster has everything to succeed at Old Trafford, although we might need to be patient before seeing his true ability in the United first team.

“He’s improved all year and, by coming up against him in training, I know how much quality he has got. Once he develops physically, I think we’re going to have a good player on our hands.”

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Fletcher went on to compare Rothwell to Lingard, who has also proved to be a late developer and has had to bide his time before being given his Premier League debut;

“Joe’s a little bit like Jesse Lingard,” said Fletcher. “I know the [former] manager spoke about him and said we might not see the best of Jesse in the first team until maybe his early 20s. I think we’ve got the same situation with Joe.”

His time may come earlier than most expected though, having been handed a squad number this season under Louis van Gaal. With United’s well documented problems in central midfield, coupled with injuries to Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick, the new no.46 may be in line to experience first team football sooner rather than later.

Should Rothwell be given that opportunity, he could provide van Gaal’s team with almost everything they have lacked in that central area. High energy, creativity, a goal threat from central midfield and a general cut and thrust which was missing against Swansea. The new United manager has wasted no time in trusting Jesse Lingard and Tyler Blackett in his first league game in charge, and Rothwell may be in contention if the midfield woe’s persist this season.

Regardless of his immediate future in the first team, it will be interesting to keep an eye on the youngster’s performances at youth level as well. With such high hopes for Joe Rothwell, and with so many coaches and teammates tipping him for a bright future with Manchester United, it shouldn’t be long before we see what he has to offer at the highest level.

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