'It's great to see Ole giving youth a chance'
It has been an impressive period of development for Tahith Chong since the turn of the year as he has made his senior debut for Manchester United and also played his part in the incredible 3-1 win at Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.
The Netherlands Under-21 international is now one of the most experienced players with the Under-23s and he is looking forward to playing at Old Trafford again on Friday night. West Brom provide the opposition and there is free entry for all fans for the 19:00 BST kick-off.
"Playing at Old Trafford is always an honour, whether that is with the Under-23s or the first team," he told our Official App. "So we cannot wait for the game.
"At this level, it’s about development, but of course we want to finish the season as strongly as possible and we’ll do everything we can to win the game. That is obviously important for us as players to develop that winning mentality."
Chong admits he has picked up plenty of tips from being around Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ’s squad, ones he hopes to take into the Under-23s. However, he does not see himself as a senior player within Ricky Sbragia’s team just yet."Being at Manchester United, you have so many new experiences and are learning every day,” he said. “You’re seeing how players go into games and how they prepare.
"I think it’s not specifics really, just small stuff you pick up and put that in your back pocket to use it one day. It’s good to pick it up, stuff I didn’t know about. I think it’s both on and off the field, you go to train with them and see things and think: ‘Hey, okay, I might start doing that as what he did there was really good’."
With Ole confirmed as permanent manager, the pathway to first-team football remains very much open for the forward and others within the Academy, something that continues to provide a spring in the step for all those working hard at the Aon Training Complex.
“It was just a proud moment making my debut against Reading,” he said, ahead of his next outing at the Theatre of Dreams. “For me and everyone, in and around the club. We won the game as well, which was good.
“The hard work eventually pays off, which is good to see.
“I think, ever since the manager came in, he has given me my debut and others have had theirs too. I think nine players that have come through the Academy have now appeared under him now so it’s amazing to see the trust both him and the club are willing to put in youth."
One experience that is forever going to be difficult to replicate is the one of sheer elation felt at the end of the dramatic away-goals triumph in Paris in the last round of the Champions League. Chong came off the bench to help United score an all-important third goal but could barely bring himself to watch Marcus Rashford’s nerve-shredding penalty in stoppage time.When asked if he could have imagined all this happening to him this season if we had asked him in August, he replied: “No. No chance. It was unbelievable. Even now, words cannot describe such an unbelievable game.
”Just to be on the pitch and, with Mason [Greenwood] coming on as well, we still speak about it and can’t believe that we came on in an actual game like that. Even Jimmy [Garner] and Angel [Gomes] on the bench experienced it as well.
"In the changing room, everyone was buzzing straight after the game. Just to accomplish that, when no-one expected us to go through, was just amazing. Really amazing.”
Chong is refusing to think too far ahead and barely has time to contemplate what he has achieved this season as he wants to end the campaign on a high.
”Obviously, I played for the Under-23s in the first bit but then made my debut which made me really proud,” he said. “That’s football – it can change just like that in a couple of months. “I’ve got to keep pushing to the end of the season now but it’s West Brom on Friday first.
”I don’t really feel like a senior player in the Under-23s yet. I’ll just try to go out and play the game. Obviously, I’ll help some of the boys as I’ve been doing that before now anyway, as we’ll be trying to get the win.
”If any of the senior coaching staff are there, it will be good. Not just for me but all the boys on the pitch as it shows the faith they have and that they are interested in how we are doing. I think everybody in the Academy is buzzing as they can see that if you work hard enough and listen to your coaches, then the pathway is there.
”It’s really hard to think about next season. It’s West Brom and the mindset is there to be on that game and the end of this season. Whether it’s in the Under-23s or not, I want to finish strongly and that starts on Friday. I want to do that right.”
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