St Mirren and St Johnstone interested in signing Matty Willock on loan ahead of the new season

Manchester United Academy graduate Matty Willock is wanted by St Mirren and St Johnstone on a season-long loan deal this summer. Alan Stubbs, the manager of St Mirren is hopeful of a deal for the 21-year-old. Last season, Willock was loaned to St Johnstone in January after his loan spell with Dutch side FC Utrecht was cut short by United after the player made just six appearances, playing mere minutes of football before being passed down to the Jong FC Utrecht side, effectively at the same level as United’s U23s.

Willock made 12 appearances at St Johnstone which was much better for him than playing in the Netherlands. The 21-year-old has come through the clubs Academy and nearly made his debut for the club who were playing their final Premier League match of the 2016/17 season against Crystal Palace at Old Trafford. Willock was summoned from the bench, went through the warm-ups and was ready to enter the fray. Jose Mourinho then cancelled the substitution and opted to bring Angel Gomes on for Wayne Rooney instead.

The Academy graduate has two brothers who are both footballers. Chris Willock, 20, plays for Benfica B in Portugal and Joe Willock, 18, plays for Arsenal. Moving to the Scottish Premiership would be good for him this season. Playing in the first team at United is not going to be easy for him, not with Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic, Marouane Fellaini, Ander Herrera, Scott McTominay, Andreas Pereira and new summer signing, Fred at the club and all ahead of him. Stubbs, speaking to the BBC about Willock and St Mirren’s interest, said:

“We are not in a position to say that it is done. But we are very, very hopeful that Matty [Willock] will be here very soon and we can get the paperwork done.”

Willock has many aspects of his game which would see him as a candidate to strengthen teams like St Mirren and St Johnstone. Stubbs spoke about his physicality, his height, his power and aggressiveness also his threat on goal. Obviously, Willock is inexperienced in a first team environment and playing for a team whereby he will challenge for places with actual first team players will be good for him. That is what United need when loaning a player. The only obstacle in the player not playing regularly will be fitness levels and of course, injury. Stubbs continued by saying:

“He certainly brings a physicality to the midfield. Most importantly, he brings competition for places. He is a big lad, six-foot one or two, powerful, aggressive, he will get around the pitch. He is a threat in terms of scoring, which is what I want to add to the midfield area, and he certainly gives us a lot of options in there.”

Willock has the skills to be a competent midfielder, whether that be at Manchester United or beyond is hard to say right now. United will need to blood youth into the squad in the next couple of seasons with some of the older players seeing their contracts expire or even a new challenge ahead. If Willock heads out on loan and impresses, not only the manager of the club he plays for, but Mourinho, it could very well result with the 21-year-old being given a chance at United over the next few seasons, or seek first team football elsewhere.

Around half of the players that have ever played for United have been from the Academy, which is a great result when developing youth. There are also many footballers who have left United’s Academy and continued on their path playing for smaller clubs and in lower leagues, which is still a good result for the Academy. Willock will no doubt be hungry to achieve things during his career and as long as he plays and continues his development, he needs to ensure what he does will be beneficial, not just for United whilst he is contracted to the club, but for him, as this is his career.

Whether Willock signs for St Johnstone, where he spent the second half of last season, of St Mirren remains to be seen. I am sure he would add something to both teams and would play a number of matches in all competitions at either club so that all depends on the decision made by the player and United. It would seem that Willock knows that playing for United this season, at least in the first team, is not on the cards and at his age, playing in the Premier League 2 is not going to help him much at this stage of his career.

copyright: JW