I was at Leigh Sports Village on Monday night to check out how the future of the club were progressing. The under 21s took on Leicester, it was freezing, wet and also miserable as far as the score was concerned- Jack Barmby, an ex-red, wrote his own script by scoring in the last minute to clinch a 3-2 victory for the visitors.
As miserable as the conditions and outcome were, one player in particular put in a display that said to me with the utter most conviction that he will definitely be the future and maybe even the present.
Tyler Blackett and keeper Ben Amos also stood out on the night, but striker James Wilson was the shining light for the home side by a long way. The boy is a natural goalscorer and has been scoring for fun for the under 21s this season, including four against city, always a bonus when it comes to endearing yourself to our fans. This quality was demonstrated with a well-taken finish to give United the lead on 8 minutes, rounding the keeper before slotting in cooly with his left peg. It was the movement, the touch, the composure and the end product rolled into one, it was the perfect striker’s goal. Everything was done with effortlessness, it was easy to him. That instinct that you cannot simply teach, he has.
All this a day after a fleeting cameo at city which made experienced campaigners in Kompany and Demichelis fret. There was a moment in the second half on Monday that your jaw dropped at- a long ball from Tyler Blackett was sumptuously controlled with a backheel in mid-air to take it past his marker, it was stunning. In a Jekyll and Hyde performance from Warren Joyce’s men, Wilson was the constant, the ceaseless menace. Taking in his performances live in front of your eyes, you can vividly see that he is ahead of the game in the development league, he is born for a higher calling. The Premier League.
On the other hand, jaws have seldom dropped this season with Robin Van Persie’s performances thus far. The hope was that euphoric moment in added time to rescue a point against Chelsea would be the turning point on a personal level for the Dutchman and for United as a collective. That spark was extinguished once more last weekend, feeding off scraps and a discernbile lethargy was not what the doctor ordered. This is Van Persie’s worst scoring start for four years, it could well be time for Van Gaal to park his once Reliant Robin motor in the garage and unleash the man in form, the boy racer.
There is a vibrancy, a verve about Wilson. He’s always playing on the shoulder and his pace would give United’s game some much needed fizz. Everything with Van Persie is invariably into feet and with his back to goal, meaning defences are not being stretched, something which Angel di Maria and Adnan Januzaj crave as attacking wingers.
Upon writing, a poll conducted by the Manchester Evening News had Wilson at a whopping 70% to start against Palace to partner Wayne Rooney, with Radamel Falcao’s continuing injury blues casting doubts over the long-term viability of a potential £44M transfer.
We saw first-hand that Wilson can create havoc for defences, his first ever first-team start, under Ryan Giggs, yielded two goals against Hull City. Yes, the game was effectively a dead rubber, but Wilson again showed those predatory poaching instincts that are golddust to any side.
This weekend’s opponents Crystal Palace are of similar standing to Hull, and on paper at least, it would appear to be a nice game to select the youngster. A man in form, regardless of age, in this Liqourice Allsorts of a season to date, cannot be taken for granted nor shunned.
Van Gaal’s insistence on abiding by the United mantra of bringing through the academy graduates has born through this year with Blackett, McNair, Thorpe, Lingard, and Wilson all getting their chance to shine. The trend should not stop this weekend, Blackett and McNair will be in contention to start, Wilson surely is the other youngster banging on the door for the match.
Adnan Januzaj’s stunning contribution at the Stadium of Light last season was, at the time, seen as the breath of fresh air to ignite fresh life into a stuttering start. A starting berth for Wilson against Palace could produce similar results. It was a Eureka moment, another one would not go amiss.
Reliant Robin has failed his MOT up to this point… Saturday could, arguably should be the chance for Wilson to start and give Louis Van Gaal a rather unexpected selection headache.
Who would you start against Palace? Wilson or Van Persie?
Leave your choice in the comments below.