Rise To Fame: Tosin Kehinde training with the first team and could debut against the Baggies

Manchester United Academy star Tosin Kehinde has been training with the first team ahead of their Premier League clash with West Bromwich Albion on Sunday afternoon. The 19-year-old has been playing for Ricky Sbragia’s U23’s side this season and has been putting in some good performances in recent matches. This season, Kehinde, despite starting as a midfielder, has played on the left-flank for Sbragia’s side. This is an area strengthened by Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford but gives United another option as the Lagos-born midfielder can play a number of positions.

Kehinde could be a player being primed by Mourinho to strengthen his side this season. The right-wing position is seemingly up for grabs in the side with Juan Mata, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and other failing to impress in that role. Mata is more of a central player, a number ten if you will and Mkhitaryan has faced some criticism from the manager for disappearing in matches. This could be why, just ahead of the January transfer window, the Portuguese manager is testing some talented youth to see if they can fill the void in roles needing strengthening.

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Kehinde does not have any senior experience, playing in the U18’s and U23’s, making his debut in the then U21’s under Warren Joyce when he was just 16. The Nigerian is described as an astute passer of the ball with plenty of positional sense. This season, Kehinde has made 11 appearances for the U23’s (10 starts and one substitute appearance) scoring one goal and assisting in another. Last season, the Nigerian talent made 21 appearances at the same level (nine starts and 12 substitute appearances) scoring once and assisting another goal.

In the 2015/16 season, Kehinde played most of his football at U18 level, making 27 appearances, all starts, scoring three goals and assisting in a further three. That season, United were also in the UEFA Youth League with the Nigerian making five appearances, three from the bench, scoring once. It was that season he was noticed by Joyce and given three appearances, all from the bench at U21 level. Kehinde finished the season with 35 appearances across the three youth levels, scoring four goals and assisting in three others.

Kehinde’s main position is as a central midfielder, but this season, he has predominantly played on the left of the attacking three, but can also play on the right. Of course, with injuries and suspension in midfield, United are a little short in the central midfield position having Nemanja Matic, Ander Herrera, and Scott McTominay as the only fit and eligible players to fill the squad. Paul Pogba is suspended for the visit to West Bromwich Albion, Michael Carrick is unfit after having heart problems earlier in the season and Marouane Fellaini is reportedly injured.

Kehinde posted a tweet on Twitter on Friday confirming that he had trained with the first team, which could be based on a number of things. Mourinho could be looking to fill the void left by some of the injured and suspended players, seeking to fortify the midfield and ensure there will be rotation during the busy festive period, or he could be used in a more advanced position, if he is to be used at all. The U23’s face Leicester City on Monday evening and it would seem that Kehinde will be part of the squad for that match. This may be more of an experience for him, rather than anything else.

Mourinho has given many players their debuts with the first team in the 18 months he has been managing the club. Joel Pereira, Axel Tuanzebe, Scott McTominay, Angel Gomes and Demetri Mitchell, all of whom are still at the club, have been picked to represent the Red Devils, Gomes the youngest player to play for the first team since Duncan Edwards made his debut for the club in 1953. This may be something or nothing for Kehinde, but if he is not involved in the travelling team this weekend, it may only be a matter of time before Mourinho involves him in his first team.

Kehinde has excited at U23 level this season, most recently in the 1-1 draw with Manchester City where he was named the MUFCLatest Man of the Match. The Nigerian-born midfielder was a creative output. He cut in from the left many times and his dribbling with the ball was sublime. The following match, a 0-0 draw with Everton, Kehinde was the MUFCLatest Man of the Match again. Whilst the result was not impressive, the player got stuck in, defended, attacked and generally did what he needed to do in order to help his team earn the point they got from the game.

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If Tosin Kehinde does not make his Manchester United debut this weekend, this month or even this season, he will be a player that rises to the occasion and earns his chance sooner rather than later. Mourinho looking at him will show that he is highly placed in the clubs Academy and the coaches will be reporting back to the manager, hence why the player has been noticed now. United’s Academy is important, the 80-year record of having youth players involved in first team matches is one that will not be beaten.

The clubs tradition to blood talented youth will continue, even if it is not happening at any other club, Manchester City for instance. That club has the best Academy training facilities in the country, yet the manager, Pep Guardiola is buying players for the first team, rather than allowing the talent to blood themselves into the squad and show what they can do. That right there is the difference between the two clubs. The media cannot get enough of City, lauding them as the best team ever, when realistically, the only thing they have achieved is playing good football so far this season.

copyright: JW