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Opinion: The key opportunity Solskjaer missed with two Man United youngsters

There was a level of content amongst Manchester United fans when the January transfer window closed.

Yes, the club’s deadline day striker search was desperate as they ended up with a 30-year-old former Watford striker, but a genuine class talent had been brought in for the midfield.

Odion Ighalo’s loan transfer was bizarre but perhaps necessary in the short-term, but in Bruno Fernandes Solskjaer has a player he can build his team around for the future.

In total in January, United had three incomings and five outgoings.

Promising Southend goalkeeper Nathan Bishop joined Ighalo and Fernandes in making the Old Trafford switch, but it’s when you look at the  exits that you realise a key opportunity was missed.

Ashley Young made the permanent switch to Inter Milan, Marcos Rojo moved back to his homeland Estudiantes on loan, and Ethan Hamilton, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and George Tanner all secured loan moves to Football League clubs.

But United’s talented youngsters closest to a first-team place stayed put.

Angel Gomes and Tahith Chong are two of the most exciting academy graduates to come through for some time, even if they aren’t perhaps ready for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first-team.

READ MORE: Report: Four midfielders Manchester United are keen on signing this summer

Gomes, 19, has made just three starts for the Reds this season, all coming in the Europa League. While he has shown glimpses, he has not had a consistent run in the team and will inevitably be growing frustrated at the lack of first-team game time.

As reported by Manchester Evening News, Gomes was keen on a deadline day loan move, but this was always going to be blocked by the club.

He made his debut aged 16 against Crystal Palace in 2017, but his United future is in doubt as his contract ends at the end of the season.

Unfortunately, Gomes is not going to realise his potential in Neil Wood’s u23’s, or hovering around the first-team squad and earning a rare 20 minute cameo.

Similarly, winger Tahith Chong has not yet proved his worth in a first-team shirt and his contract runs out in the summer.

Chong impressed in a central role in the recent thrashing over Tranmere in the FA Cup, but has also been starved of opportunities by Solskjaer.

According to the Daily Mail, it is looking increasingly likely the Dutchman will join Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan at the end of the season with a contract renewal unlikely.

It is conceivable that both Gomes and Chong will leave in the summer window.

What is most frustrating is that this could be allowed to happen without fans being able to truly see if they were good enough.

The pair have been tormenting defenders in the u23’s but it’s first-team football where their game will develop the most. Last month could have been a perfect opportunity for Solskjaer to encourage a move to a lower Premier League side or Championship team, but instead they will have to settle for sporadic roles within the squad.

We are aware that United are seriously lacking in squad depth, but Chong and Gomes weren’t getting any game time before the arrivals of Fernandes and Ighalo anyway.

It may be cliche, but the experience out in the competitive Championship division would have been invaluable for the extremely gifted pair who have not yet developed physically.

Let’s hope the club don’t live to rue the decision of not allowing two of their most talented youngsters regular first-team game time.

We will have to wait and see if United can agree fresh terms or they will walk out of Old Trafford on a free this summer.

 

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