Promising Mengi has 'something special'
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes there is
“something special” about young defender Teden Mengi but has urged caution about throwing him in at the deep end at Manchester United.
Last term’s Under-18s captain made his senior bow as a substitute in the Europa League second-leg win over LASK at Old Trafford and was part of the squad that competed in the latter stages of the tournament in Germany.
The latest of our long line of Academy debutants skippered an Under-21s side and helped keep a clean sheet in the first competitive fixture for the club in 2020/21, as Salford City were beaten 6-0 in the EFL Trophy on Wednesday night.
In an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live, Solskjaer made a comparison with Juventus centre-back Matthijs de Ligt but appreciates defenders are obviously stationed in a key area of the field, where any inexperience is likely to be punished.
“We always had that in the back of our minds, that our Academy will provide players and Teden has definitely impressed me,” said the manager.
“It’s different trusting defenders on the big stage, of course it is. You’ve got to make sure he’s ready for it, you see examples of Ajax, who play in a different league but Matthijs de Ligt, they made him captain when he was 18. You can see something special in them.
“Teden’s got something special in him. It’s about picking the right moment to give him a chance. Brandon Williams did exceptionally well last season, coming in as a defender.“A defender or goalkeeper making a mistake might cost a team, a striker who misses a chance it’s like at least he was there to get the chance.“Strikers can always win you a game with their enthusiasm, youthfulness, courage and no fear of failing. Defenders, you’ve got to make sure they’re ready because you can’t really know how they’ll react if they make a mistake.”
Highlights: Salford v United U21Video
The 18-year-old spoke to MUTV after the win in Salford and said:
“All in all, it was an out-and-out performance from the lads. It was a really good team performance and I am proud of everyone that was on the pitch today - from back to front.
“We, as defenders, get a real buzz off a clean sheet so we're happy as a unit but, as a team, we're happy with it and it puts us in a good position. This tournament is key for us, very key, because it's a really big tournament to play in, especially for us young lads, playing first-team sides. It was a brilliant win, especially against Salford, and real big for us as it was nice to beat them.
“It's a real honour to wear the armband. I wore it for the Under-18s and, this season, for the Under-23s. To step on the pitch and lead the boys is brilliant.”
Mengi played at left-back due to an injury in the warm-up to Lukasz Bejger, showing his versatility.