Ahead of the upcoming Premier League season, THT takes a look at three potential Manchester United academy players who could break into the first team
Ever since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, Manchester United have endured several ups and downs in the Premier League seasons that followed. Their sudden decline from winning the title to a seventh-placed finish created a lot of frustration and tension among the fans.
Three managers came and went before the arrival of Jose Mourinho, which led to a lot of expectations from the fans. United did not fare as well as many would have liked last season but things do look promising ahead of the next season.
Despite the intense roller-coaster ride, the one silver lining has been the injection of fresh youth talent in the first-team squad over the last couple of years. These youngsters came in and impressed fans and critics alike. Prior to the next season, THT takes a look at other such academy options who could break into the first team.
👤 MATTY WILLOCK
🎉 20 Aug 1996
📍 Waltham Forest
✍️ 01 Jul 2012 pic.twitter.com/WIWVHFMix1
— Manchester Utd U23s (@ManUtd_U23) July 31, 2017
Age: 20 years
Matty Willock arrived at Old Trafford back in the summer of 2012 after stints with Arsenal, Reading and Sunderland respectively. Born in London, Willock is essentially an attacking midfielder and has an eye for creating chances. The youngster does not shy away from scoring and has netted several goals for the Reserve team.
Manchester United have been targeting midfielders this summer and have managed to sign Nemanja Matic from Chelsea. However, Willock is a strong talent and can prove to be a vital addition as a back-up option. Moreover, with Michael Carrick approaching his twilight years, Mourinho can solidify the midfield by injecting fresh talent.
Last season, the Portuguese boss gave chances to several youngsters as he faced a shortage of players due to injuries. This season though, he has managed to bring in new players but it is likely that he will be keen on adding depth to the midfield. Additionally, in the event of injuries or a decline in form, Willock can act as a strong replacement.
Ro Shaun Williams
18-year-old Ro Shaun Williams shot to fame in 2014 when he broke Darren Campbell’s 100m record at his school in Manchester by running a time of 10.99sec. It is quite evident that Williams’ blistering pace can be a killer asset for United. He was a regular part of the U-18s, before graduating to the U-21s last season.
The talented youngster is known to be quite composed even in the most demanding situations and has truly improved his skills with the ball. If it was one thing that United were consistent with in the previous campaign, it was the defence. However, the transfer window is not over yet, and if any defender leaves, Williams can be a solid choice.
In fact, Williams ticks many of the boxes that make a player flourish under Mourinho. He is physically strong and is known to be extremely consistent – a quality which the United manager loves. Knowing, Mourinho, Williams could potentially be deployed in a midfield role in front of the back-four to keep a better grasp on the game.
Callum Gribbin is nicknamed the ‘English Messi’ and after watching him play, one understands why. The youngster is a sublime player with quick feet and has several tricks up his sleeve to rip the toughest of defences apart. In fact, his playing style is shockingly similar to Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs.
United are in need of midfielders as it was made quite evident in the previous season. Gribbin can potentially be a long-term solution since he can play in the right of midfield or as a striker, and has also played in a central midfield role. Additionally, he is a free-kick specialist and can hit a dead ball quite well.
Fitting into Mourinho’s team can be a daunting task but Gribbin is a skillful play-maker with a whole heap of tricks at his disposal. At his best, he can dictate games going forward, using his dribbling ability and control to edge past defenders and provide ample support for the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Paul Pogba.
Wildcard: Callum Whelan
Position: Defensive midfield
With so many fresh young options for Mourinho to choose from, it does become likely for many talented players to get over-looked. If that happens to the young Callum Whelan, it will be severe injustice considering the Englishman’s brilliant skills. Whelan is a supremely talented defensive midfielder and has been a rock for the U-18 side.
He can improve Manchester United’s overall performance since he is skilled at acting as the single pivot in a 4-3-3 formation. Whelan is adept at playing multiple roles and his versatility could see him land a spot in the first-team soon enough. The teenager is especially impressive when he plays in wide positions.
Consistency and versatility are two qualities Mourinho looks for in most of his players and Whelan has an abundance of both. Deploying him can bring out the best in other players too due to his quality in possession of the ball, and that is something that can open a lot of doors for the team on a whole.