Manchester United have been struggling with their academy in recent times, having lost the talents of Paul Pogba to Juventus and Ravel Morrison to West Ham while Ezekiel Fryers looks set to join Tottenham. They’ve had to buy young starlets, signing Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and now Nick Powell this summer to ensure the side still has a young English feel running through it. Although poaching the best players from other clubs seems to have worked well so far, United would like to produce a few of their own crop rather like the class of 93 that served them so well for many a season in the Premier League.
All is not lost at Old Trafford though, indeed there are still some promising players coming through the ranks. Sir Alex Ferguson admitted Will Keane would have been part of the first team squad this year had he not suffered a serious injury, while midfielder Larnell Cole has also been catching the eye. Predominantly an attacking player, who features on the right hand side, Cole was a fixture in the club’s FA Youth Cup run, impressing during the 3-2 comeback victory over bitter rivals Liverpool in the quarter final by notching a penalty and also making a goal for Ravel Morrison. A previous hat-trick against Manchester City in the Academy League had already ensured Cole had propelled himself onto the radar of the United coaches, who were keen to get him involved with the first team sooner rather than later.
He therefore made his first team debut coming on as a substitute against bitter rivals Leeds United last season in the League Cup, where he impressed during a small cameo in the cauldron of atmosphere that is Elland Road. Although that is Cole’s only senior involvement to date, since he’s not made his Premier League debut for the club, at the age of 19, he certainly has a bright future ahead of him.
It seems that the United coaches are unsure what Cole’s best position for the club could be. He possesses a serious amount of pace that lead to him playing down the wing in his younger days, but his technique and distribution are also superb, ensuring that Cole appeared in the centre of the park on a number of occasions last season for the youth team. United could do with a few more reinforcements in the heart of midfield and therefore Cole might be better off concentrating his efforts in that position. He’s also broken into the England U19 side last season, making his debut as a substitute against the Netherlands before appearing a further three times before the end of the year.
Although this season might come a little too soon for Cole, there’s a fair chance he might see some action out on loan at a Championship club. Playing regular football would be a good learning curve for the youngster as many talented prospects started their careers out on loan in the lower leagues (think David Beckham at Preston). There’s a good chance he might make the grade at Old Trafford, indeed Sir Alex Ferguson will keep an eye on his development over the coming months and who knows, maybe the Stretford End will be able to sing about another Cole in the red shirt for years to come.