In May of 2019 Tahith Chong won the Denzil Haroun Reserve player of the year award at Manchester United, adding to his Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year award won the previous year, as reported by the official Manchester United website. This impressive double sweep of awards was a clear indication of the potential Chong had, with the club reporting that during the 2018/19 season the winger was joint top goal scorer for the Under 23’s, one of the contributing factors towards him receiving the award.
That season was also an important one for Chong as it was the season he made his debut for the senior team in the FA Cup against Reading, going on to make debuts in the Premier League and Champions league. All signs were pointing towards Chong breaking into the first team for the 2019/20 campaign, but unfortunately for the young player, this was not the way things turned out.
In the 2019/20 season most of Chong’s minutes still came in the reserve team, with the winger only amassing 245 minutes in the Europa League and a mere 34 minutes in the Premier League, also making two appearances in the FA Cup and one in the EFL trophy, it’s safe to say that this was a season that stalled the progress of Chong due to a lack of playing time in games at a higher level than the reserves.
The disappointment of this campaign led to Chong being loaned out for the 2020/21 season in order to gain crucial experience at the highest level as well as playing time.
Chong was sent on loan to Bundesliga club Werder Bremen, with the club stating they were ‘very pleased that Tahith has opted for us’, going on to note that the player had to ‘take the next step in his development with us’, as was reported by the Bundesliga.
However, what at first appeared to be a perfect fit for Chong soon turned into a disappointing spell for the youngster, with him only making 15 appearances across all competitions for the club before January, scoring once and assisting twice. Another issue was the fact that most of these 15 appearances for Werder Bremen were as a substitute, with Chong only playing one full 90 minute game in the Bundesliga during his spell.
The disappointing spell in Germany led to Chong being recalled in January and loaned out to Club Brugge in Belgium, with United stating that the move should ‘enable Chong to get the game time he is seeking’. However, while Chong’s output was better in Belgium, scoring once and assisting five times, the game time was still an issue, with the winger only amassing 579 minutes across all competitions.
This season of moving from club to club and having a disappointing amount of game time could have easily unsettled Chong and led to him having little confidence left, especially when it was announced that for the 2021/22 season, Chong would be sent out on loan once more, this time in England to Birmingham City.
Many could have been negative about a third loan move in Chong’s position, however, it is at Birmingham City this season where the young players fortune seems to be changing. Most crucially, Chong has started every game he has been available for in the Championship so far this season, something that was not happening for him at his previous two loan spells.
This shows not only managerial belief in Chong, but an ability to play well in a notoriously tough league like the Championship.
Chong has also grabbed two assists for the Blues and has produced performances that have already made him a fan favourite. After Chong picked up another Man of the Match award for his performance against Derby County last week, manager Lee Bowyer praised Chong highly stating the winger is a ‘credit to United’, as was reported by Manchester Evening News.
Bowyer went on to say the player was hardworking and ‘beautiful to watch’. This kind of praise from a manager can only boost the confidence of a young player who is finding their feet on loan and can only be a bonus for United.
While this start to life at Birmingham is a dream come true for Chong, the hope now is that he can continue this form and show consistency at a high level. If he manages this, it will prove to United and its fans that the now 21-year-old winger has a place in the United squad, something many were doubting last season due to his difficulties on loan.
Chong has always been touted for big things, as can be seen with the awards he received as a youngster, and perhaps this season, we are seeing the player many believed he could be during his time at the United academy.
Written by Jennifer McCord