The Manchester United rebuild is in it’s fourth iteration after the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson. The previous iterations headed by the likes of David Moyes, Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho were either not successful or a far cry from the brand of football that has been linked to the very identity of United.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer though, is attempting to right a few wrongs with a visible squad clearout. In the process, Manchester United have delved into the transfer market to add in the form of Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire, two long-term quality players to their arsenal.
With the arrival of Wan-Bissaka and Maguire, the back four, as has been stated numerous times, has improved to a great extent. But, with it, the Player of the Year of 2018 is set to come under the scanner. Luke Shaw had a positive 2018-19 season. But, it wasn’t a level not seen before from him during his early times at Manchester United and even before while representing Southampton.
Luke Shaw hasn’t had a bright start to the 2019-20 campaign. But, limping off against Crystal Palace in the first half in what ended in a 2-1 defeat for Manchester United at Old Trafford, could be, we dare say, a blessing in disguise. While Solskjaer seemed to still consider Ashley Young as a credible option, the veteran was seen struggling against Wilfried Zaha on Saturday.
The British transfer window is over and Solskjaer will not be privy to the prospect of bringing in an emergency signing. But, there might not be a need for it after all. A closer look at the academy and the Under-23 squad puts forth the name of Brandon Williams.
Born and bred in Manchester, young Brandon was a credible defender on the left side for the Under-18s. But, it was his attacking side that lacked any real gumption. Williams worked on the attacking aspect of his game and soon became a regular for the Under-18s, even captaining the squad under Neil Ryan.
Williams penned his first professional deal at Manchester United in 2018 and his statement to the official website was telling.
“I grew up around Manchester and always supported United. I just love the club as well. I’ve been here since I was seven so, near enough, 10 years. My long-term ambition is just to stay at the club and go as far as I can. Hopefully, one day, I can get in the first team and play regularly.”, the youngster said.
A right-footed left-back, Williams can ease a lot of concerns. For one, the 18-year-old seems to be better going forward compared to what Shaw has had to offer in the three (two and a quarter) games so far. Also, the academy ace is a more polished prospect in terms of crossing ability, from what can be seen during his play for the Under-23s.
Now a full-time member of the Under-23s, it is quite fascinating to witness the (potential) rise of Brandon Williams. One might remember the name from the team sheet from the historic night in Paris under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League.
His reaction and gratefulness when Solskjaer called up Williams to the senior squad for the first time for the game against Paris-Saint Germain highlights that his heart is indeed where the home is. Williams was on the bench and could find himself being called up to the senior squad again in the midst of Shaw’s injury.
The jump from the Under-23s to the senior squad is much more tasking than the Under-18s to Under-23s. But, his start to the 2019-20 campaign provides ominous signs that he may already have outgrown the Under-23 status. In the 3 Premier League 2 games, Williams has provided 4 assists, along with an assist in the EFL Trophy win over Rotherham.
His aforementioned statement highlights the very character traits that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants in his players. The hunger and pride to represent Manchester United is something that money cannot buy. But, it is something Manchester-born Williams seems to have in his football DNA.
Manchester United’s most plausible and positive academy graduation story in the recent times was a similar roll of dice in dire times. Marcus Rashford was brought in by Louis Van Gaal to step in and be given the chance amid injuries to other forwards. Look how that has turned out.
Jesse Lingard also made his senior United debut under the Dutchman. Granted for every Rashford and Lingard under Van Gaal, there are instances of Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Tom Thorpe, James Weir, Donald Love, Paddy McNair and more who didn’t turn out right.
But, the success ratio, if you count Andreas Pereira and the still promising yet injured Timothy Fosu-Mensah, both of whom also made their debuts under Van Gaal, outweighs the negatives of handing out opportunities to the youth. Solskjaer is showing an affinity towards the youth with his decision to let go of Romelu Lukaku.
Maybe, just maybe, Brandon Williams could be part of the new-look Manchester United squad that Solskjaer has envisioned. Brandon Williams has the right attributes and character to be the next success story of the Manchester United academy setup. With Shaw’s injury, opportunity knocks on the door.