‘One we believe in’ – Seven quotes on Man Utd’s latest debutant Teden Mengi
Teden Mengi is the latest academy graduate to be handed his Manchester United debut, coming off the bench in the 84th minute as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side beat LASK 2-1 in the Europa League.
The defender became the first player born in 2002 to play for the club, continuing their tradition of bringing through academy talent into the senior team.
Here’s what people have been saying about the emerging prospect.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
“He’s a leader, a [proper] centre-back,” the United manager told BT Sport after Mengi’s debut.
“He’s one we believe in. He’s in the same age group as Mason [Greenwood].
“They grew up together. ‘He’s strong, quick, good on the ball. We’ve got a decent player there.”
“Of course,” responded the man himself, when asked if he’s been encouraged by his manager’s willingness to turn to youngsters in an interview with MUTV.
“Especially Brandon [Williams], because we both play in defence. So when I saw him kicking on, it made me even hungrier. It made me think: why can’t I do it? Obviously I got my opportunity today.
“It was a brilliant moment, I loved it. My mum said she was crying – I’ve already checked my phone!
“Obviously, it’s a great feeling. I’d like to thank everyone that’s been around me, supported me, from my family, all my team-mates.
“Everyone in the first team made it very easy for me. Everyone was very welcoming. But the Academy staff as well. Also, I’d like to thank the manager for giving me the opportunity. But, again, it’s just the start. It’s down to myself now to just keep on kicking on. But yeah, I’m very happy with it.”
What a feeling☺️, proud moment for me and my family tonight to make my debut for @manchesterunited at old Trafford, Big thank you to everyone for the support. Time to kick on 🚀 pic.twitter.com/FtUSQpOKyR
— Teden Mengi (@TedenMengi_) August 5, 2020
Neil Wood (Under-23s coach)
“He is an excellent trainer,” the youth coach told The Athletic. “He trains flat out, every day, consistently. He’s played really well this season. It wasn’t going to be easy for him stepping up to the 23s, but he just fit in. He was confident.
“There is no reason why he shouldn’t be pushed up there early. He’s got the ability, he’s got the mentality for it. He is a very intelligent boy off the pitch. You can have a good conversation with him.”
The former United midfielder and current youth coach namechecked the young defender specifically when talking about the need for leaders for their FA Youth Cup clash with Leeds in February.
Mengi featured in the backline that day as United ran out 1-0 winners.
“We’ve got Will Fish, we’ve got Teden, we’ve got Charlie McCann, we’ve got people that lead in different ways,” Butt told the MEN.
“Leaders are always looked at like a Roy Keane, a Steve Bruce, a Bryan Robson, those kind of verbal, real aggression, real leaders. And then you’ve got leaders like Paul Scholes or David Beckham or Ryan Giggs, who’s quiet but really leads by example of how they play and how they work hard.”
Neil Ryan (Under-18s coach)
“It was a great header from the set-piece, but he also led the team really well,” the coach told the MEN after Mengi scored in United’s 2-0 FA Youth Cup win over Norwich.
“He’s a good player, he’s been playing a lot at Under-23s this year, so he’s back in his age group and with his team-mates that he grew up with.
“I thought he was outstanding at times and I also thought [fellow centre-back] Will Fish next to him was too. The two of them played very well together and are forming a good partnership.”
Teden Mengi vs Norwich U23s.
Probably the best defender that MUFC academy has produced in years, nice to see him developing well
🎥:- MUFCSHOW (IG) pic.twitter.com/L60vYxtV2M
— ♠️ (@Futureburnerr) February 4, 2020
“He was comfortable,” a United source told The Athletic, after Mengi trained with Solskjaer’s senior team following lockdown and even played alongside Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof in warm-up friendlies against West Brom.
“He looked to senior players for guidance and almost matured in the space of a couple of weeks. His appreciation of the game has improved. The focus was on ball retention and pass completion. You have him now driving into the space in midfield.”
Charlotte Daly (Daily Mail)
“Mengi would add to the pace of Solskjaer’s side as he is said to have clocked up the fourth-fastest running speed in the club,” the Mail journalist revealed, an interesting tidbit in a recent profile of the youngster.
“Only Jesse Lingard, Axel Tuanzebe and Daniel James have a faster pace than the teenager.”