The United prospects with a chance to shine on tour
Jose Mourinho named a group of Manchester United Academy players in the travelling squad for Tour 2018, presented by Aon.
As the young lads work with their more experienced colleagues in training, it is worth providing a few more details on them.
I spoke to Joshua on a flight to Belgrade last season and he told me he wanted to catch Jose Mourinho's eye, and he has managed to do that. He has done really well, getting into the Reserves, ploughing a lone furrow on his own up front, using his speed, and he was perhaps most impressive in the UEFA Youth League. He scored a couple of goals against Benfica, and the one in the last minute was a terrific solo effort. Joshua came from Brentford as a youngster and took a little bit of time to settle but, now that he has done, I expect him to show his speed and ability out in the States.
Chongy, as he is affectionately known, is a really good talent. He is an exceptional player with great speed and he is a good dribbler. He made the step up to the Reserves really well last season and won the Jimmy Murphy Youth-Team Player of the Year award, which was fully merited and deserved, even though most of his work was with the Under-23s and not the Under-18s. He is somebody who everybody is looking forward to seeing on the tour when the matches start.
Ethan is a dynamic midfielder who can run from box to box and has already played for Scotland at youth level. He knows Ricky Sbragia from his time in that Scottish set-up and I know Ricky likes the way he trains, putting in the maximum effort every day. He is a player who could surprise a few people, maybe like Scott McTominay did. He is coming on nicely, building his physique, and he can probably handle the men’s game now. He had a brief taste of the first team when he was on the bench at Huddersfield Town in the Emirates FA Cup, after Paul Pogba pulled out through illness in the morning, so he should take this step up in his stride.
Angel has been talked about as a top talent since he was in his early teens. He is only a little lad, but has managed to push on and made his first-team debut against Crystal Palace in May 2016, before enjoying an outing against Yeovil Town in the FA Cup the following season. Jose clearly rates him and he has a lot of talent. He had a lot of injuries last season and didn't play as much as he'd have liked. He came back for the Under-18s final against Chelsea but possibly wasn't quite match-fit. But now he is back and he'll be firing on all cylinders again, which we all look forward to seeing because he is such a clever player. Angel will look to link up with some senior players in the side, which is an exciting prospect.
The defender was on the first-team bench during Louis van Gaal’s time in charge, but he’s had some injury problems and admitted to me that last term was all about regaining full fitness, and getting back to the peak of his powers. Towards the end of the campaign, this appeared to be the case as he was particularly effective in the ICGT competition in the Netherlands, earning a place in the Team of the Tournament after United lifted the trophy. He’s quick and powerful, plus something of a leader at the back, and has all the raw attributes to go far. This place on the first-team tour is a real reward for his perseverance.
James is a player I really like. He is a throwback, really, to the old-school midfielder who gets up and down the pitch. He can also play in defence, but is probably at his best when he plays in the middle and he has been getting tips from Michael Carrick on his passing, which has come on a lot in the past season. He’s even added goals to his game and, significantly, was captain for the England Under-17s when they did well in the European Championship at the end of the campaign, which meant he was absent for the Under-18s Premier League final against Chelsea. We missed him in the engine room. James has a great future here and he recently signed a new contract, in the boardroom at Old Trafford, which suggests how highly rated he is by the club.
We don't like to shout too much about our young talents at United, especially when they are as young as Mason is, at 16 years old, but he is a player we are all excited about. He did really well last season by finishing as the top scorer for the Under-18s, despite playing against much older and more physical boys. He did really well in the Dallas Cup, which was good preparation for going to the United States with the first team this summer. He is a big talent, a big prospect, who is two-footed and knows where the goal is. He can play up front or as a no.10, and he already has international recognition with England. He didn't play at the Under-17 European Championship because of his school work, which shows you how young he is, but what an opportunity this is for him on tour.
The opinions expressed in this article are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Manchester United.