Manchester United secured a top four spot finish by defeating Leicester in the final game week of the Premier League and this means that Champions League football is back at Old Trafford next season. The squad will now focus on the Europa League campaign that for United starts this Wednesday as they play the second tie against LASK, a team United defeated in their final game before lockdown 5-0 and will probably be calmer when facing them again.
Differently from the Premier League campaign after the restart, the schedule seems better as the team will have more days to recover and prepare for the following game, a key part as we noticed during the final weeks of the Premier League. With this in mind, one may hope that Ole could be preparing a young starting XI with some potential figures from the academy earning a place in the starting line-up or even in the bench, so let’s have a look at them the five prospects that may start or possibly feature:
A player that has excelled in the games he has played with the Reserves in the 2019/20 season scoring 9 goals in 12 appearances (10 in the Premier League and 2 in the EFL Trophy) definitely deserves minutes with the first team. Many would argue based on these statistics James Garner is way too good to play in the Premier League 2. The player is most definitely hungry for more and another Europa League start would show that the manager trusts him and he is in the right way of making an impression within the managerial staff.
A loan move might be considered for next season and as reported various football teams mainly from the Championship are interested to have him for the new season. Last week in a virtual ceremony, James Garner’s stunning goal against West Bromwich Albion was named Premier League 2 Goal of the Season, a consolation prize to the fact he didn’t receive at least a Premier League 2 Player of the Season nomination.
Ethan Laird was promoted to first team training before the game against Aston Villa in case Ole had the necessity to count on him after Premier League restart, as per the Manchester Evening News. Aaron Wan-Bissaka was in need of a rest, while Luke Shaw and Brandon Williams both left the pitch injured against Southampton and it seemed that the player would probably be given a shot. However, the young right back wasn’t called into action as Ole decided to give Timothy Fosu–Mensah a chance, with the player going following the exact instructions and helping the team when needed the most. Given the result from the first leg, Ole might as well start Ethan in the right back position, with the idea of having a fresh Aaron Wan–Bissaka in mind. All parties win.
Most of the fans may recognize him from his excellent form in the FA Youth Cup this season, a competition he could still win (United face Chelsea in the semi–final, all teams involved are waiting for restarting dates). Like Laird, he has been involved in training with the first team and now that United are back in training for the Europa League competition, Mengi is in contention for a place in the Starting XI which could mean his first team debut with United after being in the bench in the game against Astana.
James Garner’s partner in midfield is looking for more minutes to play and get back in shape. It hasn’t been an easy second half of the season for Dylan Levitt who fell ill just when he and Garner were running the show in the second Division of the Premier League 2 and he was showing premises of at least a few call ups from Ole in the first team. Due to the coronavirus outbreak all youth competitions except the FA Youth Cup have been cancelled and he hasn’t had the chance to play more than three games with the youth team. With United already winning 5-0 against LASK it could be the perfect time to reintroduce him to first team football.
Dylan is another potential that United need to treat right and sending him on loan to continue his development is seen as the right choice. Ryan Giggs has also shown signs of support for the Welsh and if it weren’t for the pandemic Levitt might have had his call up in the Wales national team. Dylan currently stands at 14 appearances with the Reserves this season with 3 goals and 4 assists. A place in the team on Wednesday is the perfect opportunity.
Out of the five players mentioned in this article, Tahith Chong is the player that needs first team minutes the most. The player already promoted in the first team hasn’t made an appearance in the Premier League restart and the Europa League could be the best opportunity to show what he is made of. The player has featured 11 times with the first team this season, while has been involved with the U23’s as well, scoring 5 goals, assisting 5 others in just 6 appearances in the Premier League 2. The Dutch must make the most of these few games offered from the competition as the club has a decision to make about him, stay and fight for a place or go on loan next season. The answer could be clear if Chong makes things right when United face LASK.