When it was announced, just before the 2014 Brazil World Cup that Manchester United will be appointing Louis van Gaal as their next manager, there was a real buzz amongst all the fans, to finally witness a manager who was similar to the much-loved Sir Alex Ferguson, being recruited by the club. One of the main aspects that both Sir Alex and Van Gaal had in common was the tendency to trust the youngsters. While Ferguson had famously managed the Class of ’92 to the top, Louis van Gaal was known for mentoring many players in their early days who eventually turned into top quality players, most famous ones being the likes of Hernandez Xavi, Victor Valdes, Andres Iniesta, Edwin van der Sar and Bastian Schweinsteiger.
When Van Gaal came to United, the first transition every fan, critic and neutral ones alike noticed was the number of academy graduates that were called up for the first training session, and eventually in the International Champions Cup pre-season tournament in the United States of America. Amongst players like Jesse Lingard, Michael and Will Keane who were out on loan the previous season, English U21 Tyler Blackett was called for the ICC Friendly matches, where he was largely deployed as a left-sided centre-back in a 3-5-2 formation.
But before all the spotlight on him during the pre-season Tyler Blackett was a budding academy graduate. The 22-year-old centre-back signed for the United youth team in 2002 when he was just eight years old, eventually signing a professional contract ten years later in July 2012.
Since then Blackett had managed to go out on a couple of loans first to Blackpool and then to Birmingham in the span of one year. One the 1st of November 2013, Blackpool signed Tyler Blackett for only on a month-long loan. Blackett then managed to play full 90 minutes on his debut for the club the next day, in a 1-0 win against Nottingham Forest. At the beginning of December 2013 Blackpool decided to extend Blackett’s loan two months, i.e. ending on the 1st January.
After appearing only five games in two months for Blackpool, Tyler Blackett, along with fellow United youth teammate Tom Thorpe, signed for Championship club Birmingham City in January on a youth loan for the remaining of the season where he managed to appear in eight games overall, not making much of a contribution to the side.
Tyler’s first contribution to a goal came in the 2-1 friendly win against Valencia at Old Trafford where he provided an assist for a last-minute goal by Marouane Fellaini. After an impressive performance during his spell in the pre-season matches, a first team competitive debut was imminent for the young Englishman, which he managed to achieve in the opening game of the 2014/15 campaign in a 2-1 home defeat against Swansea City in Louis van Gaal’s first Premier League match in charge. Blackett managed to start in the following match as well, an away 1-1 draw against Sunderland where he made an important goal line clearance to salvage Manchester United a draw. While Blackett was part of the 4-0 winning side against Queens Park Rangers at home in a 4-4-2 diamond formation, he managed to get himself sent off in the following 5-3 loss to Leicester City at the King Power stadium. The defender also scored an unfortunate own goal in the 1-1 draw against Arsenal at home, where Theo Walcott’s got deflected by Blackett and went past goalkeeper Victor Valdes. Over all Blackett managed to make 12 match appearances in the 2014/15 campaign, 11 of them being in the Premier League while just one being in the FA Cup.
Just when things started to go right for Tyler Blackett, Van Gaal bought in versatile defender Matteo Darmian from Torino in the summer of 2015, a loan spell for the centre-back looked imminent, and so it was. On the 29th August 2015, a couple of days before deadline day, Blackett was loaned to infamous Scottish club Celtic until the end of 2015/16 campaign. However despite the time period and a promising debut for Celtic at left-back, Blackett could not contribute any of the team’s efforts. In over 10 months loan spell at Celtic, he ended up making an overall of only nine appearances for the side.
Any hope of a call up from Jose Mourinho was shattered too, when the manager decided to sell the player on a permanent basis to Championship Club Reading, signing a three-year deal at the club. Today, Tyler Blackett has already appeared in 12 games for Reading under former United defender Jaap Stam who is considered to be a fan of Blackett’s versatility and attacking presence. Blackett who is current battling for the Left Back spot with fellow teammate Jordan Obita also sang praises for his current manager, saying that being coached by his childhood idol is great every single day. He said:
“There’s lots of different things he helps me with every day in training.
“I try to implement them in training and in games as well, but he’s the same with every player, be it a defender or an attacker.”
We can only imagine how things would have been different for the Royals defender if he was favored by Mourinho, but for now we can only wish the best of luck for the remainder of his career.