The League Cup has historically been viewed in a rather unflattering light for many United fans. A ‘Mickey Mouse’ tournament would be a frequent Mancunian jibe, with many a red of the opinion that the club would, and should, have bigger fish to fry.
- By Paul Rowles
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Whether through the lottery of the tournament or lack of prioritisation, United last lifted League Cup silverware in 2010, defeating Aston Villa through goals from Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney. The League Cup is often portrayed as a hindrance rather than an opportunity for success. A positive take on the competition is the opportunity it affords managers of top clubs to blood aspiring first-teamers eager to impress.
The midweek tie against League 1 Northampton Town is such an opportunity for some of the club’s youth prospects to showcase their talents to Jose Mourinho. Second stringers have moved on from last season- the likes of Will Keane, Joe Rothwell and James Weir have moved to pastures new, whereas the Pereira duo, James Wilson and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson have sought regular first-team football elsewhere temporarily.
That leaves a core of youngsters chomping at the bit to get an opportunity against Northampton, we run the rule over three of the most likely candidates who could shine:
The Congolese born defender has been fast-tracked to the cusp of the first-team and is highly thought of by Mourinho. Tuanzebe has shown leadership qualities by captaining the Under-18 side as soon as eligible and has now taken the second team armband from the departed Weir. The centre-back stands at six foot tall whose strength lies in his aerial ability despite a slender figure.
He can boast a composure on the ball to go with that aerial prowess. Tuanzebe is not afraid to bring the ball out of the back and break into midfield. His game also involves high pressing onto opposition attackers meaning his side can gain yardage up the field. Tuanzebe isn’t short of a yard of pace too, judging when to press can have its risks, Tuanzebe’s pace means he can often recover defensively and his reading of the game is as reliable as they come at youth team level.
Tuanzebe’s physicality and ability at just 18-years of age has left many followers of United’s youth team incredibly excited by what he can offer. He is very much in the mould of Eric Bailly and will surely get a chance sooner rather than later, having traveled with the squad to Feyenoord in midweek.
The young Dutchman turned many a head last season with stunning displays against Watford on his full Premier League debut and West Ham in the FA Cup quarter-final replay. He excelled in those matches at centre-back and left-back respectively, showing off his versatility.
Before the start of the season, many observers were hellbent on Fosu-Mensah starting the season as United’s first choice right-back before Valencia found some form… of sorts. His physicality, power and ability to take to first-team life like a duck to water were large factors in that viewpoint.
The Dutchman looked like a seasoned veteran last season, even if he had the blemish of giving away a penalty in an FA Cup semi-final against his name. Personally, I believe this lad is going to be a big name at United for years to come. There is an argument that TFM could thrive in United’s midfield, and he will need to find a niche position to avoid becoming a victim of his own adaptability. Centre-back or centre-mid will be his permanent calling, in my eyes.
Fosu-Mensah has all the attributes of a Mourinho player. The world will be his oyster and it will not be long before we see him on a more regular basis.
To be likened to Michael Carrick in terms of your ability and style at such a young age is high praise indeed. If it wasn’t for a niggling back injury last campaign, Sean Goss would be further along in his development than having to establish himself in the second team once again.
What stands out about Goss’ style is his neat and tidy play in possession, often being tasked with the playmaker’s role he rarely wastes a pass in the engine room. Goss was making real headway in his progression before only being restricted to a mere six appearance for the Under-21s last term.
With a few question marks over some of United’s senior central midfielders of late, Goss will be eager to make the trip to Northampton and take his chance.