After four games of the Premier League, Manchester United’s fans have had a rude awakening as to where their team is rated in the division.
One win, two draws and one loss presents itself with all sorts of problems so early on in the season, but there can also be some positives drawn out under Ole Gunnar Solskjær.
The main one, of course, being the youth production line that is continuing to grow season-on-season. Already this campaign, Mason Greenwood has featured as a substitute on a regular basis, with the likes of Angel Gomes, James Garner and Tahith Chong waiting in the wings for their opportunities.
After the Norwegian manager cleared out a large proportion of squad with the European transfer window ending on September 2, it now paves the way for these youngsters to tell the manager how much of impact they can have in the first-team squad.
Although Greenwood has played the most out of the next generation of talent at Old Trafford, there is room to suggest that Solskjær is still under-using him. When the England U-21 international came on for the last 20 minutes against Southampton, he looked sharp and bright, and was even unlucky not to have scored.
There was an opportunity where Jesse Lingard should have passed the ball wide to Greenwood, who was in space inside the Saints’ box unmarked. With the time available, the forward would have picked his spot and found the corner – there is a building excitement over how well he can finish, which was backed up by the manager stating Greenwood was the more ‘natural finisher’ of his current roster.
These two weeks of international football give Solskjær time to correct matters and lead United forward over the next month. The Norwegian needs to be brave in his approach and refuse to start players who are not pulling their weight – just like he has done with Nemanja Matić.
Gomes and Greenwood are the two standout academy players so far and deserve starting berths after the international break against Leicester City at Old Trafford. Gomes, cousin of ex-United player Luis Nani, should be allowed to parole the number 10 position and be fed the ball in between the lines, while Greenwood can start on either flank, cut inside and cause trouble.
Even the small glimpses that Greenwood has had the ball when appearing as a late substitute, he has shown himself to be effervescent around the box and with the ball at his feet. He is not a player that appears to be under pressure or carrying a burden, but instead a player with the freedom to express himself.
As the season progresses, Solskjær will have more opportunities to play Garner and Chong, as well as Ethan Laird who is a highly-rated left back in the U23s, in competitions such as the Carabao Cup and Europa League. The Red Devils’ European group is not the strongest and therefore should be wrapped up early. If that comes to fruition, the Norwegian simply has to bed in players to get experience as early as possible incase he has to rely on them at some point throughout the season in bigger matches.
Just as Daniel James has, these young Man United players are ready and waiting to take their chances to impress Solskjær. With this season being one United fans are not expecting anything from, it should be the perfect time to embed the next generation of talent coming out of the club.