This article is part of Football FanCast’s Expert Roundup feature, which provides three quotes from those in the know in order to illuminate fundamental strengths, weaknesses, quirks, stylistic comparisons and general observations of players, transfer targets and confirmed signings.
Following the appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer last year, the big talk surrounding Manchester United has been their greater reliance on young players. The Red Devils boss has publicly insisted he will give chances to the club’s brightest academy prospects, and pre-season under-lined just how keen the Norwegian is to stick to his word.
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The prospect on everybody’s lips has been Mason Greenwood, and one player who has similarly dominated the youth scene, but has seemingly fallen into the shadows behind his 17-year-old teammate, is Tahith Chong.
The Dutchman came off the bench in the 1-0 victory against Leicester, and according to the experts below, it will be no surprise if he becomes a United star sooner rather than later.
Mourinho may not be heralded as the greatest of believers in young talent, but he certainly seemed to take a liking to Chong. The winger made his first senior appearance for the Red Devils in a pre-season friendly against Club America last summer, and the ex-United boss hailed his willingness to take the “initiative” after coming on as a substitute.
“He came with the intention to show, and in a moment where we have no strikers on the pitch, we needed people to create, have some initiative, which he did. When he makes the ball move and attacks people one against one, he has quality.”
Having arrived from Eredivisie side Feyernoord in 2016, the 19-year-old could easily have been forgiven for taking the time to settle, or failing to embrace a new culture and lifestyle. Instead, his former U18s manager at Old Trafford, McKenna, praised his ability to adapt.
“Tahith has hit the ground running in his time here and I think he’s just a fantastic professional. On the pitch, everyone has been excited by his performances; he’s an eye-catching player.”
As everybody knows, the ‘Class of 92’ boasted some of the greatest academy players United have ever produced at any one time. Chief amongst them was Ryan Giggs, and the Red Devils have since had numerous pretenders to the throne. But according to Salomon, Chong’s style of play is eerily reminiscent of the Welsh wizard.
“Tahith Chong is such a gifted footballer. Carries the ball like Giggs used to with great close control and balance, add to that both strength and grit but also so hard to pick up as he can go direct on the inside and wide on the outside.”
It may be early stages in Chong’s United career, but with a manager like Solskjaer at the helm, the Dutchman has everything set up for him to make a real mark in the first-team.
The talk has been all about Greenwood so far, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that it was the former who won the Young Player of the Year and Reserve Player of the Year awards in the past two seasons. And after making his first league appearance of the campaign on Saturday, the time is here for him to fully deliver on all the hype.