Manchester United’s season is off to a horrible start.
With a new manager, Erik Ten Hag, and some exciting signings, many Manchester United fans were optimistic going into the season. After all, they had destroyed Liverpool, Melbourne, and Crystal Palace in friendlies, before some less spectacular but still decent results ahead of the Premier League season.
It’s fair to say that a 2-1 loss to Brighton on the Premier League opener came as somewhat of a surprise. Two early goals from Pascal Groß put Brighton ahead and they never looked back, with a late own goal giving Manchester United a more respectable scoreline. Still, this wasn’t too bad: Brighton have been on the rise lately with some quality signings and thrashed the Red Devils 4-0 at the end of last season. No need to panic, then.
Manchester United then promptly lost 4-0 to Brentford.
It was an absolutely shocking match for United. David de Gea played horribly, costing the side multiple goals. The entire backline was dreadful, the midfield didn’t accomplish much, and the forwards — including Ronaldo — did nothing. They finished with four shots on target in 90 minutes, none of which found the back of the net.
Next up is Liverpool, and that’s unlikely to go too well unless United make some changes. They have zero points after two games, none of their players have scored, and they have the joint-worst goals conceded. However, United have one thing on their side — a great academy. Several stars have come through their ranks in recent years, with Marcus Rashford remaining a vital part of the team. With the problems the club are facing right now, they might need to turn to another young player to change their fortunes. Here are five that United could use:
Note: I have not included Anthony Elanga as he has more or less already established himself in the side.
LW Alejandro Garnacho, 18
Garnacho is the player that everyone expects to break into the first team. The 18-year-old, who was born in Spain, has already been called up for the Argentina senior squad, made his senior debut for Manchester United, and impressed with Manchester United’s youth teams. He was subbed on late against Brighton, and was on the bench again for the Brentford loss. If United’s offense continues to struggle, he’ll likely see an increase in playing time.
CM Zidane Iqbal, 19
Iqbal was a big winner of Manchester United’s preseason. The Manchester United academy product played many of the club’s preseason games, impressing with his dribbling against Melbourne. He debuted for Iraq earlier in the year, playing against Iran and Lebanon as Iraq finished just behind a qualification spot. With United’s midfield struggling, he has a chance to earn a spot in the team.
CM Charlie Savage, 19
Savage joined Iqbal in the midfield for several friendlies, gaining support and fans everywhere. One of them, in particular, was impressed: his dad, former Welsh international Robbie Savage.
While he played fewer minutes than Iqbal and is a little further down in the pecking order, Savage has impressed in the Manchester United reserve side and features for Wales at the youth level. He’s already played in the Champions League, too. A well-rounded midfielder, he’s an asset on offense and defense for a team struggling with both.
LB Brandon Williams, 21
Williams isn’t exactly an unknown prospect. He’s already made 50 appearances for Manchester United, and spent last season on loan with Norwich City. However, United have invested significantly in fullbacks recently, with Tyrell Malacia being signed this summer. Williams hasn’t played for the club since 2021 and has yet to play this season, but that could soon change. A pacy fullback who likes to cut inside, he could be vital for the club getting back on track.
DM James Garner, 21
Reports say that James Garner may depart the club, with several clubs interested. It’s no surprise: Garner was one of the best players in the Championship last season, helping Nottingham Forest earn promotion. Garner spent two years with Nottingham, playing over 60 matches while last season contributing to 12 goals for the club. Despite this, he isn’t earning minutes at United, which explains why he could be on the move. However, if he stayed at the club, he could play a key role in a weakened midfield.
LW Shola Shoretire, 18
Shoretire has already crossed the Manchester divide, leaving Manchester City’s academy as a 10-year-old to join Manchester United’s. Now 18, Shoretire shows the potential that convinced United to sign him to their academy. Shoretire has made five appearances for the Red Devils, including in the Champions League and Europa League. The elusive winger could cause problems for opponents as a substitute and is reportedly training with the first team.
While losing the team’s first two matches isn’t necessarily a disaster, things don’t look great. The commitment and attitude of several players are being questioned, while fans are unhappy with the management of the team and its owners. The worst thing United can do is try to fix this with new signings, as the club has a dicey transfer record at best.
Erik Ten Hag needs to trust United’s young players. The youngest player in his starting eleven against both Brentford and Brighton was Jadon Sancho (22), despite the lack of performance from the veterans. If Ten Hag wants to show the players who is in control, he needs to have enough courage to drop some veterans in favor of better, younger players.
Image Courtesy of Ardfern, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
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