Brandon Williams is a shining example of Manchester United's bright future in a gloomy present
United were lucky not to concede more in their 3-1 Carabao Cup semi-final first leg defeat to Manchester City, a display that Solskjaer described as the "worst the team have played this season". Solskjaer's rebuilding process has received much criticism recently with complaints of how long it is taking and the seemingly nonchalant attitude of the Norwegian himself after defeats.
Despite the gloom surrounding the club, one area where things have continued to flourish is the integration of academy players into the first team. United recently celebrated the impressive achievement of fielding an academy player in 4000 consecutive matches since 1937. This proud tradition of the Red Devils is especially apparent in the current United squad.
One of the key starlets introduced this season is 19-year-old left-back Brandon Williams who is already staking his claim as a regular starter. Williams has made an impact in every game he has played in and is currently outperforming the more experienced Luke Shaw in the position.
Williams is a true Mancunian and is quickly becoming a fan favourite having been voted Man of the Match on two occasions already. The hard-working full-back can also boast the fact that United have only lost once while he has been in the side.
He joined the club in the summer of 2017 and made his debut for the under-18s in a 4-2 victory over Reading. In the space of just three years, Williams has risen through the ranks, earning himself a well-deserved spot in the first team.
In United's 0-0 draw with Wolves, Williams also successfully nullified the seemingly unstoppable Adama Traore with a fine defensive performance. In addition, he was the only standout performer in the embarrassing loss to Manchester City, a game in which he was not fazed by the world-class opposition and he certainly held his own. He even scored his debut goal in United's 3-3 draw with Sheffield United with a terrifically controlled half-volley.
Much like fellow graduate Scott McTominay, Williams possesses a fight and hunger that is obvious in everything that he does. He also brings much-needed aggression to a side that is very often too passive. Many of United's players have come under fire for their lacklustre and overly pragmatic performances. This cannot be said for Williams. The youngster frequently takes it upon himself to start attacks and his endless desire to win is evidently infectious on his teammates.
If Solskjaer is to be applauded for anything in his time as a manager it should be for the faith he has shown in players like Williams and other academy prospects.
In 2019, Tahith Chong, James Garner, Ethan Laird, Di’Shon Bernard, Dylan Levitt, Ethan Galbraith, Largie Ramazani and D’Mani Mellor, all United academy graduates, made their first-team debuts and the senior squad still contains further examples. Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, Andreas Pereira, and Mason Greenwood all came through United's youth system and all are key players in the current team.
At the present moment, the club is not in an ideal place. There are too many players at the club who either do not fit the mould or their best years are behind them. It seems like a perfect time then to trust the youth and luckily at Manchester United the young talent at their disposal is abundant enough.