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Who is ready to make the step-up to the Manchester United first team?

Despite Manchester United’s reserves finishing in the relegation zone this season, there are plenty of individuals from that side who warrant a place on this summer’s pre-season tour of the United States of America, with a look to bedding them into the squad regularly next year.

Such a responsibility has been talked about with some of the more renowned youth players like Axel Tuanzebe, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Angel Gomes, and increasingly Tahith Chong. However, there are some other players who haven’t received as much attention but are equally deserving of their opportunity.

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The first player who may be slightly more recognised than the others is Demetri Mitchell. Mitchell was one of a number of academy players who made their debut at the end of Jose Mourinho’s first season in charge in the game against Crystal Palace as United ran out 2-0 winners. Mitchell has spent most of his career hitherto as a winger, occasionally playing up front too. However, he showed his versatility for the Under-23s, using his pace and tactical awareness to convert to left-back.

His performances there saw him deployed there in the Palace game and he played there regularly for Hearts when he was loaned out in January 2018. Mitchell quickly gained the support of the fans, putting in strong performances before injury halted his progress. His time in Scotland was brief but he managed to win Goal of the Year and Reserves Player of the Year at United despite only having half a season in Manchester.

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Another player who will be looking to push onto the first-team is Callum Gribbin. Another local youth player, Gribbin was very nearly poached by Liverpool when he was 16. However, he was nurtured a bit more than he had been previously with the Under-18s, and his step up to the Reserves earned him some training sessions with the first team. He has a wand of a left foot and drifts pasts players with ease, whether it be cutting in from the right flank or playing in the hole behind the striker.

His public notoriety increased a lot in recent weeks as videos of him scoring from the halfway line circulated on social media. Still only 19, Gribbin will be one of the key players for the Premier League 2 side next season and might get a chance to showcase his talent on a bigger stage if he seizes the opportunity for Ricky Sbragia’s side.

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A player who has been talked about a lot alongside Gribbin is centre-half Roshaun Williams. Williams was quickly fast-tracked through the youth teams, making his reserves debut aged only 16 after one strong season with the Under-18s. His rapid progression was greatly helped by his pace and physique, and this was recognised by Louis van Gaal, who included him in the match-day squad against West Ham in March 2016 when Williams was only 17.

At the time, it appeared the youngster was going to be a major part of United’s plans very quickly. Though William’s development has been marred somewhat by injuries, a consistent run of games at the end of this season has hopefully helped the 19-year old stake his claim for a place on tour.

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The final candidate is arguably the least well-known but has the best chance of being on the plane, Ethan Hamilton. The 19-year old Scotsman was later to join United’s youth ranks, being spotted and signed whilst playing for Hutchison Vale, the side Darren Fletcher started with. Although he was later joining the system, he took little time to adapt as he captained the Under-18s from central midfield, popping up with assists and a string of well-taken goals.

His consistency earned him a call-up to the reserves, where he was a regular starter during the 2017/18 campaign. His maturity obviously caught the eye of Mourinho, who somewhat unexpectedly called up the Scot to the first-team squad for the FA Cup tie against Huddersfield. Though he was an unused substitute, Hamilton will be hoping to use this as a platform and kick on, potentially emulating the success of countryman, Scott McTominay.

Alongside the likes of those outlined at the beginning of the article, these four will be looking to this summer as a stepping stone for their development at the club. It is vital Mourinho gives them the chance.

Written by Rob Potter

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