How Mengi has made such rapid progress
Teden Mengi is making great strides at Manchester United and has clearly impressed manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to the extent that he is now training regularly with the first team.
The latest Academy debutant, who made his senior bow against LASK last season, only turned 18 at the end of April.
It is almost unheard of to have such a callow youngster pushing to play at the heart of a first-team defence. Matthijs de Ligt is somebody who springs to mind, and has already been referenced by Ole in connection to Teden, because he captained Ajax while still a teenager.
Yet last term's FA Youth Cup skipper has always exuded authority and confidence. Even from his first pre-season trip to Austria with the youth team, he was comfortable talking to us on camera about his ambitions and aspirations for the coming season.
Showing such leadership qualities meant it was quite easy to predict he would take on the armband for Neil Ryan's side and that became the case as he skippered the side during the 2019/20 FA Youth Cup run.
By then, he had already made the step up to the Under-23s and handled the huge leap in terms of the physical nature of the opposition.
“I feel comfortable playing in the Under-23s,” he told us.
“Obviously, it is a step up from the Under-18s to the Under-23s. It's always going to be a step up, the higher up you go but I've got used to it.”
Indeed, Mengi had effectively replaced Lee O'Connor four games into last season and convinced lead coach Neil Wood to partner him with Di'Shon Bernard, to help form the platform for promotion in Premier League 2. This meant outings at Old Trafford and other senior grounds, plus invaluable experience in the EFL Trophy, handling wily centre-forwards and gaining key lessons on the job.
Consequently, when he led the Under-18s out in the FA Youth Cup, he was more than ready for it.
In fact, Teden thrived on the responsibility and clearly has real enthusiasm for the prestigious tournament. It may have been a team effort in reaching the semi-finals, only to be denied a last-four tie with Chelsea due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it's fair to say that the central defender was outstanding.
He helped keen a clean sheet in a hard-fought victory over Lincoln City, scored in the win at Norwich City's Carrow Road, relished a real battle with Leeds United at Old Trafford in a feisty atmosphere and oozed quality against Wigan Athletic.
Not surprising then, that he watched the games back over lockdown.
“I enjoyed watching the FA Youth Cup games,” he told us.
“The intense ones! I watched Norwich because I scored against them! The Leeds one too. I always enjoy watching them back.”
The bigger the occasion, the more at home he looked. There appeared to be few signs of nerves, even in the ties at Old Trafford.
At the end of the truncated season, he had played only four league games in the Under-18s but four times this number in Premier League 2.
It was a clear sign he was ahead of schedule and he has pushed on further, linking up with the senior squad in Germany for the Europa League and coming off the bench in the only pre-season friendly, at Aston Villa, when he was quickly into the action and showing his strength.
Ole commented on this afterwards and has since told us that he expects Teden will have more games with Wood's team, as had been the original plan.
“Teden's jumped up,” said the boss.
“He’ll probably play some Under-23s games this season, when it's possible for him. He needs games at that stage regularly. But he’s done absolutely brilliantly in training and he came on for half an hour against Villa and didn't put a foot wrong. He's with us every single day.”
Tuesday's Carabao Cup tie at Luton Town could result in a domestic debut for the 18-year-old. Playing against the Hatters' front men will be a stern test but there will be nobody betting against him rising to the occasion, if he does get the nod at Kenilworth Road.
Teden Mengi appears to be swiftly shifting expectations and making startling progress.
The opinions in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Manchester United Football Club.