Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has challenged four Manchester United youngsters to force their way into the first team between now and the end of the season.
Speaking on Monday, Solskjaer said: “We have quite a few talents in that youth team that you’d like to see [in the side] and [you] will see at some point before next season to put the club and team in a good position [for] how will we look like next season: Mason, Jimmy, Ethan – it’s just about the right time.”
The interim boss warned they still have to leapfrog the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Juan Mata and Romelu Lukaku – but we’ve taken a closer look at the prospects.
“He’s knocking on the door to get his first appearance,” Solskjaer said earlier this month of Greenwood, who appeared on the bench for the Champions League defeat to Valencia in one of Jose Mourinho’s final matches in charge.
The prolific 17-year-old has 24 goals in 20 youth team games to his name and caught the eye once more at the weekend with two superb free-kicks and an assist to help United’s Under-18s come back from 2-0 down to beat Liverpool 3-2.
Greenwood is from a family of athletes, with his sister a promising track runner who can cover 100 metres in 12.7 seconds.
According to ESPN, United are trying to protect the forward from being too exposed to the media at such a young age in much the same way Sir Alex Ferguson tried to shield Ryan Giggs back when he was emerging.
When Greenwood was named in United’s squad for the tour of the US in the summer, Rob Dawson wrote: ‘Sources have told ESPN FC that his technical ability is beyond anything many of United’s age-group coaches have ever seen before in a player his age.
‘He can take corners, free kicks and penalties with both feet so well that it’s hard to decipher which is his strongest side.’
His first goal 🎯 pic.twitter.com/klqvzrLV5d
— ManUnitedZone (@ManUnitedZone_) January 26, 2019
A defender who has operated at both full-back and centre-back for United’s youth teams, Laird signed his first professional contract with the club in October and has also captained England’s Under-18 side.
The teenager has come on leaps and bounds since breaking into United’s Under-18 team at the age of 16, earning praise – and caution – from Nicky Butt.
“We try to keep him next to the bench to coach him a little bit,” Butt told MUTV in December 2017. “He’s only a young boy.
“You forget how young he is because he’s physically there and he’s a man. His body is powerful and he’s a man in that sense but he’s still only 16.
“He needs to learn the game and is doing that. He’s very effective bursting through but has got to learn the defensive side, which is often the case with the young players. It’s important to keep him near us so we can coach him through it a little bit.”
Ethan Laird. Manchester United's next great full-back. pic.twitter.com/PATeiNwi1F
— Mikey (@Prime_MUFC) October 8, 2018
We profiled the midfielder, who can also operate at centre-back, after he travelled to the US as part of United’s first team in pre-season.
Since then Garner has been given more first-team exposure, having been named on the bench for games against Valencia and Reading, but is still waiting for his senior debut.
Despite being just 17, Garner is already noted for his leadership qualities, captaining United at Under-16 and Under-18 level, as well as England’s Under-17s.
Solsjkaer did not specifically name Chong, but the manager has already shown his faith in the 19-year-old by handing him a senior debut against Reading.
The winger joined United from Feyenoord after being close to moving to Chelsea and is already a Holland Under-21 international.
After suffering a serious knee injury which kept him sidelined for 10 months, Chong was named Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year last season.
“Tahith has hit the ground running in his time here and I think he’s just a fantastic professional,” former United Under-18 coach Kieran McKenna previously told the club’s official website.
“He has the right attitude to training and looks after himself really well off the pitch. He’s really personable and good with the staff and players, which has helped him to settle in quickly.
“On the pitch, everyone has been excited by his performances; he’s an eye-catching player.
“We’ll just keep pushing him to add to that with an end product so he can add goals and assists, as he has been doing, and can have a bright future in the game.”
This run and finish from Tahith Chong! 👌
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) January 7, 2018