Manchester United endured a trophyless season as they were knocked out by Sevilla in the Champions League and Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City ran riot winning the Premier League by a whopping margin of 19 points. At the start of the season, Jose Mourinho’s men were tipped to go toe to toe with Man city but their inconsistent form and several other issues restricted them from challenging for the title.
One such issue was their attack which at times failed to break down teams who like to defend deep and frustrate their opponents. To solve this problem Jose signed Alexis Sanchez to provide that magic to open up stern defences. Sanchez has predominantly played his football on the left where he loves cutting inside and has a try a goal or puts in dangerous crosses for his teammates.
Anthony Martial made a name for himself on his debut against arch-rivals Liverpool when he dribbled effortlessly past Liverpool defenders Martin Skrtel and Nathan Clyne before calmly slotting the ball past Mignolet much to the delight of the Stretford End. Martial, too, likes playing on the left where he torments defenders with his quick feet and mazy runs.
He has looked uncomfortable whenever played on the right evident by his performance against Newcastle United last season where he squandered a great chance when put one on one after a needle eye pass by Nemanja Matic.
Marcus Rashford also has heavily featured on the left and his brace against Liverpool last season highlighted how dangerous Rashford could be from the left wing. The 21-year-old possesses serious pace and is also a good dribbler of the ball but like Sanchez and Martial he too prefers playing on the left and has looked ineffective when played on the right.
Mourinho tried to solve the problem by playing Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard on the right but both have a tendency to drift in the central areas which leaves Antonio Valencia isolated on the right wing. This created a lopsided attack where most of the attacks came through the left which made United predictable and thus at times easy to defend against. So the question beckons that how does Jose solve this conundrum?
The logical answer would be to drop into the transfer market and sign a natural right winger but that isn’t as easy as it sounds. United are huge admirers of Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale but signing him seems like an impossible task considering their star man Cristiano Ronaldo recently moved to Juventus and replacing two of their star men in one window would be a mammoth task for Florentino Perez.
Willian is another right winger linked to United and he has a good relationship with Mourinho but it would take a sensational offer to tempt rivals Chelsea in selling him. Even if United manage to pull off such a signing it would provide nothing but a short-term solution to this issue. Manchester United have a rich tradition of promoting youth and giving them a chance to showcase their talent at the highest stage.
This has served them well as club legends like Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, David Beckham and Gary Neville came through the academy and brought success and glory to the club. One such highly rated youngster who has caught the eye of many with a brilliant cameo in the pre-season friendly against Club America is 18-year-old Dutchman Tahith Chong.
In a game where United struggled to create chances, Chong sprinkled his magic with a wicked cross from the right which resulted into Ander Hererra striking the post before Mata found the back of the net. This will not come as a surprise to the people inside the academy as it has been known for a long time that Chong is a special talent.
The talented youngster won the Jimmy Murphy Young player of the year last season and is considered as a long-term solution to the right wing problem. The Dutchman boasts electric pace and is a good dribbler of the ball. Chong is brave on the ball, tall, agile, like to go 1v1 with the defenders, has a good first touch and can certainly cross a ball. His physique is a problem but with time the coaches could work on that like how work was done on a certain skinny Ronaldo when he had first arrived.
As the old adage goes,”If you are good enough, you are old enough”. In a World Cup where Kyliann Mbappe stole the headlines courtesy of his devastating exploits, it provides a timely reminder that giving youth a chance can save fortunes as well as bring unparalleled success. Tahith Chong has all the qualities required to be one of the very best and only time will tell whether he can match the lofty expectations and be the next United great to come through the academy. For now, remember the name.Published 22 Jul 2018, 19:08 IST