Six players from Manchester United’s Academy who could do a job as squad players next season


Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a rebuilding job to do at the club this summer which will involve him getting rid of players he does not want in his team, adding players that fit his philosophy and also keeping the clubs DNA process working by blooding youth into his squad in a bid to strike a perfect balance between experience, youth and players who will add other aspects to the squad such as work rate, determination and leadership.

Over the years, there have been some great players who have come through the clubs academy. The likes of David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville, Nicky Butt and Phil Neville will go down as the best of the bunch based on what they achieved as a team, especially winning the treble during the 1998/99 season. I’m not suggesting the same could happen but if players are not given the opportunities, we will never know.

Recently, there has been six big names in the clubs academy structure. Two of them have been playing in the Premier League and the Championship on loan this season, the other four have been playing, largely for the U23s together, also featuring in the first team in a period where injuries were high, seeing what was needed to feature in the first team more often. Those six players are as follows;

Axel Tuanzebe: Experienced and ready to help his team kick on next season. Tuanzebe could be the right fit for the team. United could spend a lot of money strengthening the defence but need to look at what they already have, which serves a purpose.

Axel Tuanzebe made his United debut in the 2016/17 season under Jose Mourinho, who has praised the academy graduate ever since he arrived at the club in May 2016. The now 21-year-old has spent a season and a half on loan at Championship club Aston Villa. This season, because of injury, he has only made a total of 26 appearances, managing one assist, which for a player who has either played at right-back or as the right-sided central defender, is not all that bad.

Tuanzebe is a player who has all of the right tools in his locker and with the right leadership, training and support, both on and off the pitch, could become a player that would remain in the starting XI for the foreseeable future. Many United supporters would like to see big players arrive this summer in the defence, one would be good with Tuanzebe taking a place in the squad and using what he has learned on loan to put him into the plans of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer next season.

Tim Fosu-Mensah: The Dutchman is able to play at right-back, as a central defender or even as a central defensive midfielder, giving him more than one chance of fitting into Solskjaers squad.

Tim Fosu-Mensah made his United debut under Louis Van Gaal during the 2015/16 season, making eight Premier League appearances and two more in the Emirates FA Cup. The following season, he played 11 times for United, four in the league, twice in the FA Cup, once in the EFL Cup, and four times in the UEFA Champions League. During the 2017/18 season, Fosu-Mensah was loaned to Crystal Palace where he made a total of 24 appearances in all competitions.

This season, Fosu-Mensah was on loan again, this time for Fulham, after they were promoted from the Championship last season, winning the playoff. The Netherlands international made a total of 12 appearances at Fulham. The manager changed, as did the plans of the players already at the club. This led to the 21-year-old spending much time on the bench or not even in the playing squad for matches. Fosu-Mensah is a talent and with United needing to rebuild, using academy graduates is a good way forward.

James Garner: Age is just a number. If they are good enough, they are old enough. Garner is a talented young player with enough in his locker to make the step up to the first team.

James Garner made his United debut at the age of 17 earlier this year, coming off the bench against Crystal Palace in the 90th minute for Fred. He was previously named as a substitute against Reading in the FA Cup at the start of January but was not used in the match. This season, Garner has been playing academy football where he has played 26 times for the U18s, U19s and U23s, scoring twice and assisting a further two goals. Garner has captained United at all of these age levels also.

Whilst he has little experience in a first team environment, it is clear that the lad has the talent to succeed at this club. Whilst in the academy, Garner has played a box-to-box role, also playing in central defence at times, which would have given him a different perspective of the game. Travelling with the first team on the pre-season tour in the summer of 2018 will have been good for his progress, making him hungry to succeed at the club even more.

Angel Gomes: Small and quick. Creative and composed. Gomes is a player of small build but has great energy and skill. With the right mentoring, he could become one of the stars in the new United squad.

Angel Gomes became the youngest player to play for United’s first team since Duncan Edwards after he replaced Wayne Rooney in the 88th minute of the last Premier League match of the 2016/17 season, a 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace. Gomes was 16 years and 263 days old. The now 18-year-old also played in one FA Cup match in the 2017/18 season, making another Premier League appearance during the 2018/19 season. He might have a long way to go yet but could become a class player.

Gomes started his career in the academy, playing for the U18s during the 2014/15 season. In the five seasons which have passed, Gomes has played 83 times in the U18s, U19s and U23s, scoring 29 goals, assisting a further 22. Whilst he still has to carry this form into a first team environment, him given the opportunity next season could be great for his career, whether he makes it at United or not. He could learn from the likes of Juan Mata if he stays this summer, who has a similar frame to Gomes.

Tahith Chong: A talented player ready to occupy a place on the wing or even playing further forward. The 19-year-old has the skill and determination to make a name for himself under Solskjaer.

Tahith Chong made his United debut this season, replacing Juan Mata in the 2-0 victory over Reading in the FA Cup. Chong has also played in the Premier League, a 3-2 victory over Southampton and in the UEFA Champions League in that 3-1 victory over Paris Saint-Germain. Whilst he did not score or assist in any of these appearances, it has been a good step up for the 19-year-old who could make the first team next season, especially if Solskjaer is keen to ensure the clubs DNA returns.

Chong has played in the academy over the past three seasons, making a total of 57 appearances, scoring 21 goals and a further 17 assists. Chong has played at U18, U19 and U23 level and could make the step up from that level this summer, giving United further options in attack next season, which would be great to see. Chong is a class footballer in the academy and has all the attributes needed to become a valuable player in the United squad next season. I am not saying he’s ready but this would be a step in the right direction.

Mason Greenwood: Has more that one goal in his locker, this one. In a period whereby goals and creativity have been a problem for United, this young lad could be just what the doctor ordered. Solskjaer thinks he’s a player for his philosophy, which is a good sign.

Mason Greenwood made his United debut this season, coming off the bench in the 3-1 victory over Paris Saint-Germain in the UEFA Champions League. Jose Mourinho had previously had him in the squad ahead of the group stage match against Valencia earlier in the season. Greenwood is a player who has brought a lot of excitement this season, a season which had little excitement to it. Solskjaer highly-rates the player and is certain to be part of the rebuild, whether next season or beyond.

Greenwood started his footballing career as a midfielder but soon became a forward. Emerging into the U18 squad last season (2017/18), he has spent the last to seasons playing in the U18s, U19s and U23s, making a total of 49 appearances, scoring 46 goals and 18 assists, which is great for a player of his age, 17. Greenwood will turn 18 in October this year, meaning if he’s given the chance, he could be one of the youngest players in the squad under Solskjaer.

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