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Does James Wilson still have a future at Manchester United?

When James Wilson scored two goals on his Premier League debut against Hull City in the final game of the 2013/14 season, it was expected that Manchester United may have found their next academy product who would make the grade at first-team level. His goals did not come as a surprise to followers of United’s then reserves, as Wilson had been prolific at the lower level. At the beginning of that breakthrough season, ‘Willo’ was captaining the U18s.

By the end of it, caretaker manager Ryan Giggs had placed his faith in the 18-year old, starting him alongside fellow youngster Tom Lawrence after the former was given a place on the bench against Newcastle. The striker struggled for first-team minutes the next season under Louis van Gaal, largely playing for the reserves but continuing to be prolific. However, in search of first-team minutes, he was loaned out to Brighton and Hove Albion after a couple of appearances in the 2015/16 campaign.

He made 27 appearances for the then Championship side, scoring five goals in the process. However, a subsequent loan spell to Derby County was abruptly ended after he suffered a severe knee injury. Like a former United striker, Will Keane, Wilson has been unlucky with injuries during his time at the club, both whilst on loan and when he was playing at youth level. The combination of loans and injuries mean he has dropped considerably in the pecking order following the rapid rise of Marcus Rashford.

Rashford, Romelu Lukaku, and Anthony Martial are all above Wilson in Jose Mourinho’s thoughts as to who should be the starting striker for United. Given Mourinho rarely opts for two up front, Wilson was wise to seek another loan this season, joining Sheffield United in the January market. Wilson has been less unlucky with injuries but has generally struggled to get into a side which boasted Leon Clarke, who has scored 19 goals for the Blades this season.

Since his move in January, he has managed nine appearances with just the one goal. This suggests that what may have been his last chance at United is slowly falling from his grasp. Wilson will be 23 in December, and any chance to establish himself in the first-team is rapidly diminishing. He will be vying desperately to go on the Pre-season tour to the United States of America and try and prove himself to Mourinho, even if it means he is showcasing his talents for other potential suitors.

Wilson has played 20 times for United, scoring four goals in the process. These are not the kind of figures which would suggest he is in line to be blooded into the first team any time soon. However, in 34 appearances for the U23s, he has scored 15 goals and provided four assists, something which demonstrates the natural ability the Englishman clearly has. Though his United career has been very mixed, he only needs one excellent season elsewhere, be it on loan or permanently, to showcase just how good he can be.

The likelihood is that he will move on in summer, but it is probably best for the development of his career that he does so.

Written by Rob Potter

James Wilson targeted by Sheffield United ahead of possible loan move this month

Manchester United reserve striker James Wilson is a possible target for Sheffield United this month according to the Sheffield Star. The report suggests United’s 22-year-old striker and Wolverhampton Wanderers midfielder Lee Evans could be the targets Blades manager Chris Wilder is looking to strengthen his squad with ahead of the Steel City derby this Friday. Wilder has not revealed the names of the players he is seeking, but Wilson, seeking to reestablish himself in club football after his horror injury, could benefit from a loan move, which also adds to the fact United have promoted some U18 players to U23 training, possibly to fill the void left by Wilson and maybe others. Wilder, quoted by the Sheffield Star about loan signings, said:

“I’m confident this week we’ll get a couple more players in as well. We’re delighted he (Leonard) is in the building and he’ll strengthen the group. Hopefully, we’ll get two or three others to boost our numbers and give me the amount of problems (in terms of selection) I should have.”

Wilson emerged back in 2013/14, after the sacking of David Moyes, making his debut at Old Trafford in a 3-1 Premier League victory over Norwich City, scoring a brace himself. The following season (2014/15), Wilson made 17 appearances, scoring twice under Louis van Gaal and looked to be making waves in the United first team. During the 2015/16 season, Wilson made two appearances for United before being loaned out to Brighton and Hove Albion where he made 27 appearances in the Championship, scoring five goals. Van Gaal was sacked as United manager at the end of that season with Jose Mourinho replacing him at the start of the 2016/17 season, a season in which Wilson was loaned out again.

Derby County were the destination for the young striker but it was not to be the season where he would improve, injury striking and the player being left on the sidelines. For Derby, Wilson made five appearances, four for the first team and one in the Football League Trophy, an U23 competition. Wilson scored his only goal for the club in that U23 competition against Doncaster Rovers. During the summer, Wilson had recovered from his injury and was seeking to resurrect his career. Ricky Sbragia came in as the new U23 coach at the Old Trafford club and Wilson was kept in the squad to regain his fitness and earn his plaudits once again.

Wilson has only featured for the U23’s this season, despite calls for him to be promoted after both Romelu Lukaku and Zlatan Ibrahimovic were injured at the same time, but Mourinho opted to utilise Anthony Martial as his striker for the match against Everton at Goodison Park in the Premier League on New Year’s Day. Wilson has played eleven matches in the Premier League 2 this season, scoring seven goals. At this stage of his career, playing reserve league football will not be beneficial for him but it was important for the club to assess his return from long-term injury, ensuring he was on the right road to continue his career. A loan move for the second half of the season would be great for the Biddulph-born striker.

Playing in the Championship with Sheffield United could see Wilson continue where he left off the season before last, scoring five goals with Brighton. The loan spell with Derby last season was not the best, but that was caused by injury, which cannot be helped in this industry. If Wilder and the Blades were interested in Wilson, United should let him leave to player at a much higher level than the Premier League 2, which could see the 22-year-old return to the Old Trafford club at the end of the season with more experience under his belt, perhaps rediscovering the form which saw him as a future superstar only a few years ago.

During the 2013/14 season, which saw Wilson play for the clubs U18’s, U19’s, U21’s and the first team, he made 30 appearances (one from the bench), scoring 24 goals and assisting five others, seeing him nearly score or create a goal in each match he played. The following season, Wilson made fewer appearances at youth level, starring in the U21’s. Wilson made 12 appearances, scoring eight goals and a further two assists. In the 2015/16 season, Wilson made one appearance at U21 level, scoring once and assisting another goal. The talent is there, it just needs to be rediscovered. Having Sheffield United, or even another Championship club after him could be where he shows the world of football that he is back. Playing U23 level football is not where that will happen.

Loan Watch: Pereira and Wilson made debuts with defeats; Januzaj continues to stutter

So far this season Manchester United have five players out on loan; Guillermo Varela at Eintracht Frankfurt, Adnan Januzaj at  Sunderland, James Wilson at Derby County, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson at Wolverhampton Wanderers and Andreas Pereira at Granada. The summer transfer window closes on Wednesday evening so that number could well increase ahead of the first half of the season. The emergency loan spell window has been abolished this season, so teams will need to strengthen before the closure of the summer window. Here is how I feel the loan players did for their respective clubs this weekend.

Guillermo Varela – Eintracht Frankfurt

Guillermo Varela played 90 minutes in the 1-0 victory over Schalke in the Bundesliga on Saturday afternoon. The Uruguayan right-back played well but was booked in the final three minutes of the match. Last week, the player scored the winning penalty in the DFB-Pokal, earning his team a place in the second round of the competition. The only goal of the match was scored in the 13th minute  through Alexander Meier and was assisted by Szabolcs Huszti. Varela committed a few fouls and conceded corners on a few occasions, but he did what he needed to do in order for his side to win their first Bundesliga match this season. Varela has not been called up by Uruguay during the international break, so he will a period of rest before the season starts again.

Next Match: SV Darmstadt 98 – Bundesliga – Saturday 10th September 2016, KO 14:30 BST

Adnan Januzaj – Sunderland

Adnan Januzaj played 90 minutes in the 0-0 draw with Southampton in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon. The Belgian, despite scoring his debut goal for his loan club during the EFL Cup earlier in the week, was not on the scoresheet this weekend. He failed to achieve a shot on goal, his passing was poor; managing to successfully pass to a teammate 42% of the time. He created one chance, a key pass on the 36th minute of the match, but nothing came of it. Januzaj managed to get on of his two crosses to a teammate, again nothing transpired from them. Januzaj has talent, but his attitude seems to be something of a problem, probably why he has not been granted a chance at United this season. It could well be the end of the road for him, as looking at his form and what he offers, a player of his calibre should be head and shoulders above the players currently at Sunderland. It is funny that when he scores a goal like he did midweek, many seem to think he has made it. Not by a long shot. He has a lot to do in order to get himself back into United’s first team if that is, in fact, achievable at all. Januzaj was not called up by Belgium during the international break.

Next Match: Everton – Premier League – Monday 12th September 2016, KO 20:00 BST

James Wilson – Derby County

James Wilson was on the bench for his first Derby County match of the season following his loan move away from Manchester United. Derby was subjected to a 1-0 defeat to Burton Albion, which was a poor result for the away side. Wilson replaced Jacob Butterfield in the 56th minute of the match. The United striker had a shot on goal in the 90th minute of the match, but it was blocked. Wilson made five passes, all of which reached a teammate, which was good, but he needs to be doing more, and so do Derby. Two minutes into his debut, Wilson crossed into the box, but it did not reach a teammate and came to nothing. I am sure that given the chance, Wilson will start to find his feet, as this was his first competitive game this season. He played during some of United’s pre-season matches but had not played since then. Wilson has not been picked for England U21’s ahead of their European Championships qualifier against Norway.

Next Match: Newcastle United – Championship – Saturday 10th September 2016, KO 17:30 BST

Cameron Borthwick-Jackson – Wolverhampton Wanderers

Cameron Borthwick-Jackson was an unused substitute in the 1-0 defeat to Huddersfield Town in the Championship on Saturday afternoon. The Manchester United left-back did not feature in the EFL Cup through the week either. He has been loaned to Wolves in order to develop, but he is not going to do that on the bench, so we will keep an eye on this loan spell, which at this moment in time does remind me of Tyler Blackett’s failed loan spell at Celtic last season, but it is early days. Borthwick-Jackson, along with United teammates Dean Henderson and Axel Tuanzebe has been selected for England U20’s, who face Brazil on Sunday 4th September 2016.

Next Match: Burton Albion – Championship – Saturday 10th September 2016, KO 15:00 BST

Andreas Pereira – Granada

Andreas Pereira made his debut for Granada in the 5-1 defeat to Las Palmas in La Liga on Sunday evening. The Belgian-born Brazilian replaced Luis Martins in the 56th minute of the match, with his side trailing 2-1 at the time. Pereira had one shot on goal, in the 78th minute of the match, which was saved by the keeper. He maintained his passing at 63%, which was not all that bad. The Manchester United attack midfielder created one chance for his teammates with a key pass in the 71st minute, which came to nothing. Pereira was never going to have the debut of his life, having not played competitive football this season. The important factor is that he will gain some valuable first team football this season, in a competitive league where he will face Barcelona and Real Madrid, which may not be the best teams to play again, but the potential to learn is a massive thing for the young midfielder.

Next Match: SD Eibar – La Liga – Sunday 11th September 2016, KO 17:15 BST

copyright: JW