Manchester United have dropped some way south of the standards they set under the tutelage of Sir Alex Ferguson.
That said, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looks to have the backing of the United board and one thing he has in common with his old mentor is his willingness to hand young players an opportunity. The Glazers, who also co-own NFL odds favorites’ Tampa Bay Buccaneers are under a lot of pressure.
The Red Devils are 14th in the league, having conceded more goals that the ones they scored and the American family who owns the club is under a lot of pressure, with #GlazersOut trending in Twitter.
Here we look at five youngsters who could be knocking on the door in the near future and that can be the solution to United’s problems.
Number 5. Dillon Hoogewerf
When Hoogewerf switched Ajax for Manchester United, he came into the club as a blisteringly quick striker who could run in behind or beat a defender one-on-one with his tidy dribbling skills whilst his goal scoring instincts had been praised too. So, they should have been. He had averaged more than a goal every other game for their youth sides.
Now with the United development teams that work has continued with six goals and four assists in 20 appearances. Hoogewerf has already set his sights on a first team debut. If he keeps doing what he is doing, the call may come – although a loan move initially feels more likely.
Number 4. Tahith Chong
Chong is a strange one. He’s been close to the United first team after a string of impressive performances in the development sides, but his current loan spell isn’t really going to plan.
The good news for Chong is that the Bremen hierarchy have moved to allay fears over his game time. Clemens Fritz has publicly stated that he will play plenty of football over the course of the season.
The 20-year-old’s cause wasn’t helped by a two-week covid-19 isolation but now he’s back it’s imperative that he gets minutes under his belt.
If the time is afforded to him, then he’ll need to add to the one cup goal he’s registered so far in Germany to reaffirm his place in Solskjaer’s long term thinking.
Number 3. James Garner
James Garner is well thought of at Old Trafford. He already has seven first team appearances to his name with two of them coming in the Premier League. This summer, Solskjaer and co took a view that the 19-year-old wasn’t going to benefit from running games of football against other kids and opted to loan him out.
The takers were Watford, who are amongst the favourites in the betting odds for promotion.
The Championship is a physically demanding league with some good players in it too. Garner hasn’t looked out of place. He’s made 10 appearances for the second placed Hornets and has an assist to his name too.
It’s not his creative side that’s earned plaudits though. Nope, the thing that has caught the eye most is his energy and tenacity, which has proved a big asset in the engine room of Vladimir Ivic’s team.
Number 2. Arnau Puigmal
Second in our list of prospects is Arnau Puigmal. The 19-year-old arrived at Old Trafford after coming through the youth system at Espanyol. Initially he was seen as a central midfield player but a shift to right back has seen him flourish beyond coach’s expectation.
He has bags of ability going forwards, which is supported by the fact he has six goal involvements in just three matches so far this season but he’s started to add some defensive understanding to his game too.
If you believe the rumour mill, the question to ask isn’t whether or not United will give Puigmal a chance but more whether they’ll keep hold of him. Barcelona are known to be keen. Given he’s a Spanish youth international, a deal with the Catalan club could well appeal.
Number 1. Hannibal Mejbri
When United signed the then 16-year-old Mejbri from Monaco they paid £4m for his signature with another £4.5m to potentially follow. That’s how highly he is rated. It was a huge pull just to land the young central midfielder too with Barcelona and Liverpool also interested.
That all said, it has quickly become apparent as to why there was so much attention in the young man. He hasn’t long been 17 and already he’s playing with the under 23 squad. In fact, he’s bossing the team.
This season alone he has three goals and four assists to his name from eight games. Mejbri has started every game too and has been subbed off just twice missing just a total of 28 minutes of action. Of all United’s prospects, he’s the most likely make a real impression on the first team.
There you have it, five prospects that could be gracing the Old Trafford turf in the not too distant future. Who else are you expecting to see turning out for United soon?
A Salford man is running 365km in a heartwarming marathon challenge on behalf of The Christie
A man from Salford is taking on the extraordinary challenge of running 365km over the course of 365 days and eight marathons, all on behalf of The Christie.
Approaching his 36th birthday, Connor Robinson from Worsley had always had a huge desire to do something positive in his life and after his best friend suffered a loss in the family, he was determined to help in any way he could.
With that in mind, the Salfordian decided to set himself the challenge of running 365km in 365 days across the span of eight and a half marathons around Europe to raise money for The Christie Charity.
The initial inspiration for this challenge came from Connor’s best friend Jack Prady, whose mum Tracy was treated at The Christie Hospital here in Manchester and sadly died of bowel cancer in April 2020.
Jack went on to set up the TP23 Foundation in memory of her and ran an incredible 252 miles, raising more than £30,000 for the beloved local charity and cancer treatment facility.
Inspired by his best mate’s accomplishment, Connor felt that he wanted to “do his bit” and help contribute to the fantastic fundraising that Jack had done. And it’s that classic thing, isn’t it? If your mate does something impressive, you can’t help but want to match.
That being said, Robinson set himself the huge goal of taking on not just one marathon but eight — plus an extra half-marathon for good measure — all around Europe to complete the set.
Having never been a runner, the property director knew that completing even one marathon would be a challenge for him, but seeing what his friend Jack had already achieved for such a great cause and in his mother’s memory was more than enough to spur Connor on.
The two local lads putting in the graft.
Then, just 10 weeks into his 18-week training programme on 10 January this year, Connor’s own dad, Wayne Robinson, was also sadly diagnosed with a type of throat cancer.
A non-smoker and drinker, Wayne’s cancer was unfortunately caused by the HPV virus. Having now started treatment at The Christie, receiving daily radiotherapy and chemotherapy, Connor has all the more motivation to take on the challenge.
“Whilst I am running this challenge in Jack’s mum Tracy’s memory, it is also for every single person who’s ever needed the remarkable services provided by The Christie – especially my dad”, explained Connor. “When starting this challenge, I wanted to take it across Europe and spread the name and awareness of The Christie not just throughout the North West but the whole of the UK and beyond!
“There’s probably no other family I have been closer to over the last 15+ years than the Pradys and I have seen first-hand the immediate and long-lasting impact cancer has on loved ones, but also how much needed and invaluable the treatment and care received by The Christie was.”
Connor’s friends and family will be following his journey and supporting him along the way and, like a best mate would, Jack has even vowed to run every marathon with him.
Their first marathon together will be on Sunday, 10 March in Barcelona and Connor will be documenting their journey on Instagram, @letsrunwithconnor.
So far, Connor has raised over £3,000 just through his training runs with Jack, which is 90% of the initial target of £3600. Their eight marathons will take place in Barcelona, right here in Manchester this April; Leeds, Edinburgh, Chester, Dublin, Athens and Valencia, with the final half marathon still to be decided.
You can donate to Connor 365km in 365 days marathon fundraiser HERE and wish you all the best of luck, lads — go and smash it!
These two aren’t the only Greater Mancunians who are taking on multiple marathons on behalf of the vital NHS Foundation Trust this year.
Unsurprisingly, this latest example of Bruno Fernandes‘ diving has been labelled everything from “shocking” and “embarrassing” to “pathetic” and “ridiculous”, as well as being accused of cheating online from various fan bases and even some of his own supporters.
It’s hard to argue with any of those descriptions either, especially when this is by no means the first time he’s come under fire for similar behaviour. This isn’t even the first time we’ve written about it, having been hit with almost identical adjectives based on last season’s performances too.
The 29-year-old Portuguese midfielder remains one of Man United and the Premier League’s most creative players but as one commenter put it: “Moments like these are why Bruno Fernandes get disrespected by rival fans and referees hardly take him seriously… a cheating sore loser to a lot”.
Replying to the original clip, another account wrote: “Players like this make refereeing the game nigh on impossible. This stuff needs calling out every week by pundits, regardless of who it is or what club they play for” — and it seems many others would also back the idea of retrospective punishment for diving.
You can go back throughout his time at Old Trafford to find plenty of other examples of his simulation and while it is part of football, it’s one of the biggest criticisms levelled against the sport and far from what makes it ‘the beautiful game’.
Fernandes is just a drop in the ocean when it comes to the countless players trying to con the referee around the world week in and week out, but this almost chronic level of diving being highlighted on the biggest stage does pose the question of whether more needs to be done to crack down on it after the fact?
You can watch the highlights of Man United’s 1-2 loss to Fulham at home down below: