Manchester United head into Wednesday’s Champions League last-16 second leg against Paris Saint-Germain in the midst of an injury crisis, but for a select few youngsters it offers potentially the opportunity of a lifetime.
There are no fewer than 10 first-team members missing through injury as United look to reverse their 2-0 home defeat, while they are also without Paul Pogba after he was sent off in the first leg.
PSG had injury problems of their own ahead of that first meeting at Old Trafford, though United’s problems since – starting with Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial in that match – make the French champions look like they got off lightly.
Although interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer finds himself in something of a quagmire, it gives him the chance to further the development of young players, and the club have one of the best generations of youth players since the revered ‘Class of ’92’ or ‘Fergie’s Fledglings’.
It remains to be seen whether the latest crop will ever reach such an iconic status, but five are available in Paris and we have the low-down on each one.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) March 5, 2019
Instantly recognisable by his impressive locks, 19-year-old Chong has looked like a potential star ever since joining United in 2016 from Feyenoord, who did not quite realise what they had until he had gone. A skilful, fast and direct winger, the Netherlands Under-21 international has already featured twice off the bench under Solskjaer and is arguably the furthest along in his development of the youngsters who have travelled to the French capital.
This run and finish from Tahith Chong!
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) 7 January 2018
Attacking midfielder Gomes has long been a cause for excitement among United fans. Part of the England team which won the Under-17 World Cup in 2017 alongside Jadon Sancho and Callum Hudson-Odoi, Gomes can play anywhere along the front and has an eye for goal. But it is in tight spaces in which the silky 18-year-old is at his best, boasting fine dribbling abilities and great vision. He became the first player born this century to feature for the club back in May 2017 and their youngest since Duncan Edwards in 1953.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) May 18, 2017
Still just 17, Garner made his Premier League debut as a late substitute in the 3-1 win at Crystal Palace on February 27, with United’s coaching staff looking delighted as he made his way off the bench. A neat and tidy midfielder, Solskjaer has compared him to Michael Carrick – currently a first-team coach at United – and is confident he will carve out a fine career, describing him as being “in the mould of a top, top central midfielder”. Given their dearth of options in the middle, the England Under-17 captain may well get another cameo off the bench in Paris.
#MUFC Under-18s midfielder James Garner has put pen-to-paper on his first professional contract. Congrats, James!
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) 23 May 2018
The latest to really capture the imagination of supporters, Greenwood has earned rave reviews for United’s Under-18s, scoring 29 goals from just 30 appearances. But there is much more to him than goals – he possesses blistering pace, great ball control and is among the most two-footed players you are ever likely to come across. Solskjaer has been itching to give the 17-year-old his debut, reportedly blocking loan moves in January. An unspecified injury in February probably robbed him of an opportunity when Anthony Martial was initially ruled out, but he is surely set for an appearance sooner rather than later.
Mason Greenwood has been bang in form for #MUAcademy this season…
…and this superb solo effort v Young Boys was one of his best!
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) 29 November 2018
Perhaps the least heralded and well-known of the five youngsters in the squad, Williams will offer cover to Luke Shaw at left-back, while he has also filled in on the right. Williams was a part of the Under-18s side which won the league last term and signed professional terms on the back of that success. Even just being included in the squad will be a source of pride, given he is a lifelong United fan who has been at the club since he was seven.
Ole on Brandon Williams: “Brandon is a quick full-back who can play both sides. It’s the first time he’s travelled with us and he didn’t expect to come. But that’s why you’re in the Academy — we believe in you and suddenly you can step up.” #MUFC pic.twitter.com/GikMDQrE3K
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) March 5, 2019
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