Man Utd youngsters to watch out for this pre-season

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is planning to give pre-season chances to a number of youngsters currently training as part of a depleted first-team squad, while most of the club’s established stars enjoy summer holidays delayed by international tournaments.

United have scheduled friendlies against Derby, QPR, Brentford and Preston before the end of July and Solskjaer is expecting young players to be heavily involved in those games.

Once the likes of Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, Harry Maguire and others start reporting for duty at the end of the month and into August, the United boss has admitted that some of the youngsters will move on to loan clubs to get more first-team exposure and chances.

For some, the club is already decided, while for others a suitable choice will be made in due course. Not all of them are likely to leave either, with a few in with a chance of making more United appearances over the course of 2021/22.

Here’s a closer look at nine of the academy graduates who started pre-season as part of the first-team…

1. Shola Shoretire

Shola Shoretire is Man Utd's youngest ever player in European competition | Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Age: 17

Position: Winger

It was less than three weeks after his 17th birthday when Shoretire made his United debut in a Premier League game against Newcastle in February. Soon after that he became the club’s youngest ever player in European competition, breaking a record that had stood for nearly 40 years.

Shoretire also played on the final day of the Premier League season against Wolves and was named 2020/21 Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year, joining an elite list of past winners.

Given his feats so far, which also included playing for the Under-18s aged 14, he is arguably the biggest talent to emerge from the youth ranks since members of the Class of ’92.

2. Anthony Elanga

Anthony Elanga has already scored for Man Utd's first-team | Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

Age: 19

Position: Winger

Like Shoretire, Sweden junior international Anthony Elanga broke into the United first-team in the closing stages of last season. He played in each of the final two Premier League games of the campaign and scored his first senior goal against Wolves in the latter.

Elanga was the 2019/20 winner of the prestigious Jimmy Murphy prize and comes from strong footballing stock as his father, Joseph, is a former Cameroon international who went to the 1998 World Cup.

3. James Garner

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has labelled James Garner the 'new Michael Carrick' | James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Age: 20

Position: Midfield

“We've got great faith in him as the next Michael Carrick,” was how Solskjaer described a 17-year-old James Garner when the midfielder made his debut against Crystal Palace in 2019.

Garner has played seven first-team games for United to date but really got the chance to earn some experience of senior football when he moved on loan to Watford last summer. That deal was cut short after a change of manager, but the youngster then joined Nottingham Forest instead.

He finished last season with 40 Championship appearances under his belt and United’s need for a central midfielder could see chances come his way at Old Trafford.

4. Teden Mengi

Teden Mengi made his Man Utd debut in August 2020 | Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

Age: 19

Position: Centre-back

Teden Mengi was another to gain experience in the Championship last season, joining Wayne Rooney’s Derby and playing nine times for the Rams in difficult circumstances. Sadly, his loan was ended slightly prematurely by an injury in April.

The Manchester-born talent has been very highly rated for several years by club staff and those who regularly watch United’s youth teams in action. He made his debut as a substitute in a Europa League match against LASK in August 2020 and is specifically known for his pace.

Centre-back is always one of the toughest positions for young players to be given an opportunity, especially at the highest level, and a season-long loan to get more games under his belt might still be the best path for his immediate future.

5. Facundo Pellistri

Facundo Pellistri made his mark at Under-23 level last season | Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Age: 19

Position: Winger

Having joined United from Uruguayan giants Penarol last October, Facundo Pellistri was afforded time to adapt in the Under-23 squad and looked good in a handful of outings. He had even been on the bench in the Champions League a couple of times in the autumn.

However, just as the young winger looked ready to make his first-team debut in January, with a potentially perfect FA Cup tie against Watford coming up, he tested positive for coronavirus.

By the end of the month, Pellistri has joined Alaves on loan, with the hope that the lack of a language barrier in Spain might help ease his transitioning from South America to Europe. He made 12 appearances in La Liga and is now back in Manchester.

6. Joe Hugill

Joe Hugill outshone Amad Diallo at an Under-23 game in January | James Gill - Danehouse/Getty Images

Age: 17

Position: Striker

All eyes were on Amad Diallo when United faced Liverpool in an Under-23 game in January as it was the Ivorian winger’s first appearance in club colours. Yet it was 17-year-old Joe Hugill who ultimately stole the headlines after bagging four goals in the 6-3 win.

Solskjaer called Hugill, who doesn’t turn 18 until October, a ‘top striker’ after that performance. The youngster even let Amad have the penalty from which United scored their sixth that day and the boss said he would ask Hugill why he wasn’t selfish so he could get five.

The young forward defends from the front and scored 10 goals in 18 Premier League 2 appearances last season, getting three of them while he was still only 16.

7. Ethan Galbraith

Ethan Galbraith played for Northern Ireland before he played for Man Utd | Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Age: 20

Position: Midfield

Ethan Galbraith made his United debut alongside many of his youth team colleagues during a famous trip to Kazakhstan to face Astana in the Europa League in November 2019. But he was already a Northern Ireland international before that.

Antrim-born Galbraith made his senior Northern Ireland debut in September 2019 and made a second appearance for his national team in 2020.

His single first-team appearance for United is the only one of his career so far, suggesting a loan would be of significant benefit at this stage of his development. But he has the security of a contract at United until 2023 with the option of an additional year on top.

8. Dylan Levitt

Dylan Levitt played on loan in Croatia last season | Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Age: 20

Position: Midfield

Dylan Levitt is another with more senior international caps than appearances for United, having played nine times for Wales and even being selected for Euro 2020.

Levitt didn’t really play during a loan spell at Charlton in the first half of last season and took the slightly obscure route of heading to Croatian club Istra on loan in February. This season could now be make or break for him if he goes on loan again.

The 20-year-old from north Wales is clearly keen to make a strong impression on Solskjaer this summer. Despite his involvement with his country at Euro 2020, he reported for duty with United little more than a week after Wales were knocked out.

9. Matej Kovar

Matej Kovar started last season on loan with Swindon in League One | George Wood/Getty Images

Age: 21

Position: Goalkeeper

Czech goalkeeper Matej Kovar was a regular on loan for a struggling Swindon in League One in the first half of last season until being recalled to Manchester in early January. At that point he went on to play eight further Under-23 games in Premier League 2.

With Tom Heaton, Lee Grant, Dean Henderson and David de Gea the four goalkeepers in the first-team squad, playing time will be close to impossible for Kovar at this stage of his career and he ideally needs another loan at a higher level than League One to progress himself.

The chance to train with the first-team for now, however, is an excellent opportunity and he will hope to ultimately follow in Henderson’s footsteps if he can improve and bide his time.

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Source : 90min