‘Brave as a lion’: All you need to know about Man Utd hope Brandon Williams
Manchester United have struggled for a reliable, consistent left-back since they sold Patrice Evra in 2014, but their prayers might have been answered with the emergence of young Brandon Williams.
The Red Devils might not have dazzled in the Europa League so far, mustering just one shot on target (from a penalty) in their last two games, but it’s providing a platform for emerging stars to perform.
And Williams performance in the 1-0 win away to Partizan Belgrade caused quite the buzz, with almost everyone in agreement that the 19-year-old was their standout player on the night. Here’s everything you need to know about him.
Where’s he come from?
Cousin of English Super-Featherweight boxer Zelfa Barrett, Williams comes from a talented family.
Born in Crumpsall, North Manchester, he’s grown up supporting the club and represented them at various youth levels since the age of seven.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s assistant Kieran McKenna previously coached him at Under-16, switching the right-footer to the left.
Breaking through into the first-team picture in 2019, he’s got a reputation as a speedy full-back who isn’t afraid to get stuck in and take care of himself.
He lived up to that when he was sent off in a closed-doors pre-season friendly against Accrington Stanley for his part in a scuffle with Football League veteran Sean McConville.
What he’s achieved so far
It’s been a stratospheric rise for Williams in 2019.
One of the eight academy products that travelled to Paris in March, Williams watched on as Tahith Chong, Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford featured in that famous 3-1 win over PSG, still Solskjaer’s finest night as manager.
Then in August, he made his international debut at youth level, playing for England’s Under-20s in a goalless draw against the Netherlands.
A senior debut for his club shortly followed as he played the second half of United’s 1-1 draw with Rochdale in the League Cup, and he’s played every minute of their last two Europa League away trips, contributing to clean sheets in a 0-0 against AZ Alkmaar and the 1-0 against Partizan.
He’s also been awarded a new three-year contract, and came on for his first Premier League minutes in the closing stages against Liverpool.
But it was his standout display against Partizan that’s the highlight of his short career so far. He won the penalty that decided the game, recorded an 83% pass accuracy, eight ball recoveries, five clearances and two tackles.
One tackle in particular, subsequently starting a counter late in the game, went down a storm with United fans on social media.
What they’ve said
“Top-class, absolutely top-notch,” said Solskjaer after his debut against AZ.
“You won’t see a better full debut from a full-back anywhere. The boy is just going to improve and improve.
“Brandon was the man of the match,” added the Norwegian after the Partizan game.
“He’s been fantastic the few games he’s played. The boy has no fear, he is as brave as a lion and he got us the win.”
“Brandon has an absolutely great attitude. The boy is going to be a top, top player.”
"We got a result, but the performance wasn't what we hoped for."
"Brandon Williams was absolutely exceptional, man of the match for me."
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer singled out Man Utd's young left-back for praise after a win in Belgrade. pic.twitter.com/mzFWBls0DS
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) October 24, 2019
“I thought Jimmy Garner in the middle of the park and Brandon were absolutely outstanding tonight,” Phil Jones, who featured alongside him in the United backline against Partizan, told MUTV.
“The pair of them to come here in a hostile environment, away in Europe. They should be very proud of themselves.
“It’s a huge experience at a young age. Both did very well and both looked comfortable at this level and they have a big future the pair of them.”
Williams added: “I just remember before the game they told me to get at the full-back and I just knew and so I took it down the line and waited for the foul to come.
“It gives me more chance to advance forward which I like doing but also get back and defend, which I like doing as well, so it’s a good formation for me.”