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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

Rise To Fame: Callum Gribbin – once compared to Ryan Giggs but he wants to be himself!

Salford-born Callum Gribbin has continued his rise to fame at Manchester United, making his breakthrough into the U23’s last season. This season, after recovering from injury, Gribbin will be expected to continue his development into the star he could be – whether that is for United or beyond, nobody knows. Gribbin has been highly rated for the last few years and has played with many of the young and talented players expected to make their own way towards United first team in the years to come.

Gribbin is a versatile midfielder, capable of playing in a central role, on the left, right or even behind the striker. He started his time in United’s U18 side in the 2014/15 season, making 25 appearances (22 of them starts), scoring five goals and assisting a further five. The player also made a substitute appearance for the U21’s that season, seeing him play a total of 26 times. In the summer of 2015, Gribbin was wanted by Liverpool and Manchester City, he decided to remain at United, sign what was reported as a four-year contract.

During the 2015/16 season, Gribbin played 26 times for the U18, all starts, scoring five goals and assisting a further four. He also played six times for the U19’s, scoring once and assisting a further goal. Gribbin also played once, as a substitute, for the U21’s. In total, Gribbin made 33 appearances, scoring six goals, assisting a further five. The teenager had shown his ability in all three age groups in the Academy, which will continue to see him rise through the ranks on his quest to reach the first team.

Gribbin only played seven times (six starts and one substitute appearance) for the U18’s in the 2016/17 season, scoring six goals and assisting a further goal. United were not involved in a competition at U19 level that season. The player also made more appearances for the now U23’s. starting 12 times, also coming off the bench twice. Gribbin scored once and assisted a further two goals at this level, showing his ability even more. In total, he made 21 appearances, scored seven goals and assisted three more that season.

During the summer of 2017, Gribbin suffered a fractured fibula during pre-season, which was unfortunate for him. The 18-year-old was tipped to return to action in the Premier League International Cup fixture with Athletic Bilbao, he did coming on in the 80th minute of the match for Zak Dearnley – United won the match 2-1. So far this season, Gribbin has started twice for the U23’s, coming off the bench on three more occasions – scoring once and not yet making an assist. It will be a big season for him, especially after losing ground to injury on the eve of the season.

Last season, U18 coach Kieran McKenna, who had many talented players, spoke highly of Gribbin, talking about his experience, his technical skills and his great eye for a pass, saying:

“Another experienced boy who is similar to Ro-Shaun Williams in terms of his experience at this level. He will be quite well-known to the United fans who might have seen a little bit of him. He is a fantastic technician with a really good eye for a pass. 

“What has been pleasing is he’s starting to add to the physical side of his game and is becoming more powerful and dynamic. Also, his attitude to his defensive work and responsibilities is improving all the time. If he can marry those things up, with his talent on the ball, he can have a really bright future.”

During the busy festive period, Gribbin, who had recently turned 19 was called up to train with Jose Mourinho’s first team. The player trained longer than some of his peers from the Academy level, which led to reports he was to be selected as part of the squad to face Southampton in the Premier League. United drew 0-0 at Old Trafford and Gribbin played no part in the match, not even being named on the bench for his club.

It is clear that speculation will continue to be rife in the world of football. Tosin Kehinde was training with United’s first team late last year and there was similar speculation that the Nigerian-born midfielder could make his debut, not being included in the matchday squad. Gribbin is a talented player but he has not played in any of the recent U23 matches; the 4-0 defeat to Arsenal and the 3-0 defeat to West Ham United, last playing in the 1-1 draw with Leicester City on the 18th December 2017, scoring United’s only goal of that match.

It is not known as to why Gribbin has not played the last two fixtures for the U23’s but with the next match against Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford on Monday evening (29th January 2018), if he is fully fit, Gribbin could be back in the squad, which has recently been boosted by the promotion of Angel Gomes, Josh Bohui and Nishan Burkart, which could see the U23’s start to perform this season, or face relegation to Division 2 of the Premier League 2 with Spurs at rock bottom with nine points from 14 matches, United in 11th place with 11 points after the same number of matches.

Ones To Watch: Callum Gribbin

Callum Gribbin, born on the 18th December 1998 and raised in Salford is an up and coming players within Manchester United’s Academy, currently eligible to play in the U23 squad, but injury has kept him out of action recently. Gribbin played in the Otten Cup in the Netherlands earlier in August, with United reaching the final and losing to Anderlecht on penalties. Gribbin scored twice in the pre-season competition and made some good performances too, which bodes well for the future. Manchester United describe Gribbin as “A playmaker with a real desire to get on the ball and dictate matters”. Gribbin played in an U13 match at the Amsterdam Arena ahead of former United and Ajax goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar’s testimonial, scoring twice in the match and announcing himself to the world of football, being hyped up since then. Gribbin has the ability and drives to succeed, and perhaps he will make headway this season after ending the last on the sidelines through injury.

During the Otten Cup, where United beat Barcelona 2-1, Gribbin was likened to United legend Ryan Giggs based on his silky run, agility, and neat footwork before scoring against the young Spanish side. The 18-year-old has been tipped to rise through the ranks like Marcus Rashford, but will need to adjust himself to the game before that happens. Gribbin will have spent two seasons in the U18 squad, making 25 appearances, scoring five goals and assisting a further five goals in the 2014/15 season, also making six appearances for Nicky Butt’s U19 squad in the UEFA Youth League, scoring one goals and assisting a further goal, then making 26 appearances, scoring five goals and assisting in a further four in the 2015/16 season. This season, Gribbin has made one appearance for Warren Joyce’s U23 squad, a substitute appearance, but injury has kept him out of the side since, with some hoping that he will be fit after the international break.

Gribbin is a good talent and one whose talent has been noticed by his coaches, fellow players, and the clubs supporters. Many would like to see him achieve, with some thinking that he is ready for the first team. With all due respect, he has made three appearances over the last three seasons for the U21/U23’s, which is great, but in order to make the first team, the player would need to be special, better than any other player who plays in similar positions, or would be promoted due to injury, which was how Rashford got there, took his chance and the rest is history. Gribbin will succeed, but in order to better himself, I feel he needs to break into the U23 side this season, providing injury is not something that keeps him out of action for a long period of time. From there, is Jose Mourinho is willing to give him a chance, and it was taken, the world would be his oyster.

Gribbin’s former youth coach, Kenny Swain coached the player at U16 and U17 level rates him well and sees something special in him. Speaking to Bleacher Report back in November last year, he said:

“I heard about Gribbs through our scouting network and everyone would say, ‘You have to see this lad, he is similar to this player, or that player’. Then I’d go and look at him, then within five minutes, you can see that this boy is something special. He can take it under pressure anywhere. The best players tempt the opposition into the challenge, and it is all about the timing of release, which Gribbs has to a T, way beyond his years. Not many kids can deal with him or want to deal with him. He just sends them the wrong way and makes them look foolish. He leaves me breathless.”

Straight from his former coach, it is said Gribbin can take the pressure, which is always a good sign. In Warren Joyce’s U23’s side this season, there are a lot of problems to solve. One of them being the lack of a striker or a player who could fill that void. It is suggested that United are looking into solving that by bringing a player in before the closure of the transfer window on Wednesday evening. Gribbin may not be the player that could fill the void as a striker, but he could be one of the players behind. United have much talent at that level with James Weir, Josh Harrop, Tosin Kehinde, Matty Willock and Scott McTominay to name a few. Gribbin would add something different to the U23’s, something Joyce may be wanting to add after the international break, providing the player is fit, of course.

The 17-year-old has a mass of potential and securing himself into Joyce’s side this season, aiming for a starting role and keeping that will see him go a long way into showing that he is the right player to be given chances at the club. I am not saying he will reach the first team this season, or next, but he has the potential to do so. It might be a long waiting game for Gribbin, but if he is as good as many say he is and sees himself playing for Manchester United and no other team, perhaps he will be a player to watch in the famous red shirt in the years to come. Gribbin only turns 18 in December, which is the age Rashford achieved his dream to play for Manchester United, and that was something that was great to see. They say lightning does not strike twice, but with Gribbin, providing he develops as he should, could prove that lightning does indeed strike twice.

copyright: JW