The 13 kids handed Man Utd debuts by Solskjaer & how they’ve fared so far
Manchester United have long been renowned for giving opportunities to young players – and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has certainly continued that tradition.
Solskjaer replaced Jose Mourinho in the Old Trafford dugout in December 2018 and has regularly put his faith in United’s academy stars.
We’ve looked at the 13 academy graduates to make their debut under the Norwegian to see how they’ve fared so far.
Chong was handed his first-team debut early in Solskjaer’s reign, coming off the bench against Reading in the FA Cup in January 2019.
The winger is highly regarded at United but has mainly been restricted to cameo appearances in the Premier League and Europa League in 2019-20.
He signed a new contract at Old Trafford in 2020 before being sent on loan to Werder Bremen. Having made just four Bundesliga starts, he was recalled in January and sent to Club Brugge, where he got two assists in his first two Juliper League appearances.
Garner made his senior debut at just 17 years of age, replacing Fred in the final stages of United’s 3-1 win against Crystal Palace in February 2019.
“I believe he’s got the chance to have a great future,” Solskjaer said after the game. “He knows we believe in him, we’ve got great faith in him as the next Michael Carrick.
“I know he’s young and I know it’s not fair on kids to compare to great players like Michael was, but he’s the same mould, he plays simple passes, plays through the lines.”
The midfielder started three times in the Europa League group stage in 2019-20 but spent most of last season with the Under-23s.
This term he has been out on loan in the Championship, first to Watford, where he made 12 starts, and since January at Nottingham Forest, where he is putting in performances that are turning heads.
One of the most exciting talents to break through at United in a long time, Greenwood made his debut as an 87th-minute substitute in the incredible Champions League win against PSG in March 2020.
The forward went from strength to strength last season, scoring 10 goals in 31 Premier League appearances in 2019-20.
This season it’s not been so easy. A first England call-up came but ended prematurely and 19 Premier League games have brought just one goal so far.
Still, there’s a hell of a player in there.
Williams made his senior debut in an EFL Cup match against Rochdale in September 2019 and quickly became a key part of Solskjaer’s squad, making 36 appearances in all competitions in his breakthrough season.
More recently, with the arrival of Alex Telles and improved form of Luke Shaw, he’s been back in the Under-23s developing his game away from the spotlight.
From last year’s evidence, we think he’ll be back in the first-team picture before long. He’s got the required quality, but more importantly, he’s also a wonderful sh*thouse.
Bernard made his debut in a Europa League game against Astana in Kazakhstan in November 2019, but it didn’t go to plan.
The defender marked the occasion with an unfortunate own goal in a 2-1 defeat and hasn’t played for the senior team since.
He’s currently out on loan at League Two Salford City, where he’s made 17 starts, getting two goals.
Laird played the full 90 minutes in the 2-1 defeat away at Astana and followed that up with a cameo appearance against AZ Alkmaar in December.
The right-back was promoted to first-team training in July 2020 and was part of the squad for the Europa League knockout stages.
In January 2021, he was sent out on loan to MK Dons in League One.
Levitt was one of United’s standout performers against Astana and looked accomplished on the ball, completing 100 of his 104 passes in the middle of the park.
The 19-year-old is yet to add to his solitary first-team appearance, but he has still been a regular in the senior Wales squad under United legend Ryan Giggs.
“He’s a huge talent,” Giggs told United’s official website in May 2020.
“In training, he is one of the best. Even though he has yet to play a Premier League game for United, he has already helped raise standards and the senior players feed off that.
“He’s my kind of player – a good character, quiet but tough, and he’s one that I will be taking a big look at over the next year or so. If he plays more games, then he’ll definitely be in the reckoning.”
Despite that assessment from Giggs, opportunities were limited for Levitt on loan to Charlton in the first half of the 2020-21 season.
He’s now taken the rather bold step of a loan to Croatian side NK Istra 1961 to get the game time required to secure a place in the Wales squad for the Euros.
— utdreport Academy (@utdreportAcad) April 14, 2020
Mellor travelled to Astana on the back of some impressive displays with the Under-23s and replaced Chong for the final 30 minutes.
The forward has been overshadowed by Greenwood’s emergence and is still waiting for his second appearance for the club.
Ramazani also made his senior bow during the shock defeat to Astana, but that six-minute cameo proved to be his one and only appearance for the club.
The Belgian striker rejected a new contract at United and signed for Spanish second division side UD Almeria on a free transfer in August 2020.
“I want to thank the club for helping me become a better footballer/person and for making me and my family feel at home during my time here,” Ramazani said on Twitter after leaving Old Trafford.
“After all the years I can only say thank you to the club, to the fans that have supported me since the first day I wore this jersey and of course thank you and good luck to my team-mates, who helped me settle in since day one not only as team-mates but as friends/family.
“Today I say goodbye to Manchester United but I take with me many memories, lessons and great moments that will live with me forever. It has been one of the best years of my football career.”
An 89th-minute sub in that Astana defeat, Galbraith didn’t get much of a chance to show what he can do.
The midfielder returned to train with the club’s Under-23s afterwards and has been performing well for the youth team in 2020-21.
Mengi became the 11th academy graduate to make their debut under Solskjaer, coming off the bench against LASK in the Europa League in August 2020.
The defender impressed for United’s Under-23 and Under-18 teams in 2019-20 and is tipped for a bright future at Old Trafford.
“He’s a leader, a [proper] centre-back,” Solskjaer 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.”
Mengi moved to Wayne Rooney’s Derby on loan in February 2021 and made his senior league debut against Middlesbrough two weeks later.
After five seasons out on loan at four different clubs – including a brilliant two-year spell at Sheffield United that saw him called up to the England squad – Henderson finally made his United debut in September 2020, keeping a clean sheet as United beat Luton 3-0 in the League Cup.
He hasn’t been able to displace David De Gea as Solskjaer’s No.1 though and there is talk of him angling for a move away from Old Trafford if he’s not made first choice soon.
But given he signed a six-year contract worth £120,000 a week last summer and Sergio Romero is set to leave the club at the end of this season, getting out might be easier said than done.
The most recent academy graduate to make their debut under Solskjaer is also the youngest: 17-year-old Shola Shoretire, born February 2, 2004.
He came on for his first season appearance in February 2021 against his hometown club Newcastle United following some strong showings for the Under-23s.
The little winger is seriously highly rated at Old Trafford and there has been some suggestion the club are willing to end their pursuit of Jadon Sancho because they believe so strongly in Shoretire.
“It’s important that our kids know that when they’re good enough, they’re old enough,” Solskjaer said after Shoretire’s debut.
“Shola has been training with us for a while, done really well and it was next step for him. A few players went out on loan which made the path for him shorter.”