Manchester United are back in action at home to Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup this evening, with Erik ten Hag’s side seeking revenge having suffered a 3-1 defeat to the Midlands outfit in the Premier League on Sunday.
That disappointing loss at Villa Park – which came in Unai Emery’s first game in charge – brought to an end the Red Devils’ nine-game unbeaten run in all competitions, with United having produced a string of solid displays prior to that since the 6-3 drubbing in the Manchester derby.
Looking to bounce back from that defeat last time out, Ten Hag – who has largely shunned rotation in the Europa League this season – will likely again name a strong side at Old Trafford, albeit with the Dutchman’s attacking options somewhat limited due to doubts over the fitness of Jadon Sancho and Antony.
That fact has left the former Ajax boss rather thin on the ground with regards to alternatives, with a shake-up arguably needed regardless in the forward line due to the current shortcomings, having scored just once in each of their past three games.
A possible solution could well be the returning Anthony Martial – with the Frenchman having featured off the bench at the weekend – although it remains to be seen if the unreliable forward can truly be trusted, having been dogged by injuries after an initial promising pre-season.
With the 26-year-old – who has been at the club since 2015 – having had more than enough chances to impress, it could well be an ideal opportunity for Ten Hag to thrust a different figure into the fray, with promising teenager Charlie McNeill one potential candidate to earn a first senior start.
The highly-rated 19-year-old – who has been dubbed “one to watch” by ESPN’s Rob Dawson – has made just a solitary appearance for the club thus far, with that rare outing having come off the bench earlier this season in the defeat to Real Sociedad back in September.
A “top player“, in the words of Dawson, the youngster has been on the cusp of the first-team in recent times as a result of his sparkling form at youth level, with the striker netting four times in 15 games this season, including three goals in just three EFL Trophy outings.
The Englishman’s total tally at U21 level now stands at nine goals and three assists in just 31 games, having previously been prolific for the club’s U18 side, scoring 34 times and registering 11 assists in 35 games.
The exciting talent – who began his youth career with the Red Devils – had arrived back at the Theatre of Dreams from rivals Manchester City back in September 2020 for a fee of around £750k, having reportedly netted over 600 goals at youth level.
A vital part of the club’s FA Youth Cup triumph last term – scoring five goals and registering two assists in just six games in the competition – McNeill has seemingly earned his stripes in the academy ranks, with now the time to see him truly unleashed on the senior stage.