The Debate: Which youngsters could shine under Ten Hag?

Tuesday 28 June 2022 09:18

United’s young players will be handed the opportunity to impress during pre-season, according to the panellists on this week’s episode of The Debate.

Stewart Gardner was joined by former Reds Wes Brown and Danny Webber plus journalist Paul Hirst, and a range of topics was discussed, from potential signings to United’s first day back at Carrington for pre-season.

A hot topic that emerged was what new manager Erik ten Hag may have planned for the younger members of his squad.

Brown, who came through our Academy, believes that the Dutchman’s track record speaks for itself in that regard.

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What are Ten Hag's pre-season priorities?

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He said: “I think, for me, the main thing is that they’re going to get the chance. They will be the ones that come back early. I think the good thing as well, [is that] the manager, he’s probably going to give them a chance.

“At Ajax he was known historically for playing youth players, bringing youth in. I’m pretty sure he will understand that, and he’ll want to see what they’re like in the jersey. He’ll want to see what they’re like under pressure [and] what he thinks they might be able to do in a team like he’s trying to produce.

“He will definitely give them the chances on this pre-season tour, because we’re going to have to use quite a few of them because people will be coming back late.”

Webber added to Brown’s thoughts, outlining which players he thinks could muscle their way into Ten Hag’s first-team plans.

“I think it’s a bit premature for [Alejandro] Garnacho,” he said. “I think it will be premature for him to come in, especially when you’ve got Elanga who plays in his position as well. You’re kind of saying that, for him, it would look like if youth team football is too easy for him at the moment, then it would be a loan. That’s what I would say.

“[James] Garner’s the one who’s gone out and done his legwork. He’s gone out on a couple of loans and done really well with [Nottingham] Forest last year. He has to play in the Premier League this season. He’s pushing to get in, especially because four midfielders have gone. Is he going to be one of the ones that replaces [them] and gets some game time? I think he’d be the one for me that would push.

“Hannibal as well has gone away [with Tunisia] and done well. I think that could possibly be a loan.

“It’s hard when you’re trying to get back into the Champions League and compete for the title, which is where we are trying to be, to put the onus on those kids. I think Elanga did it exceptionally in the circumstances last year, to come in and play the way he did. But it’s not easy. You can’t often mass-integrate players like that, like the Class of ’92. It doesn’t happen so often.”

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Ten Hag takes day one in his stride

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Hirst agrees that Garner is the youngster most likely to break into the Reds’ first team, and believes Ten Hag will allow him to make an impression.

He said: “You look at that Ajax team of 2019, so many homegrown players that had come through like [Matthijs] de Ligt, Donny van de Beek, Frenkie de Jong as well. He puts faith in the young’uns.

“James Garner, from seeing him at Forest last season, he’s probably the one that could do it. United aren’t blessed with options in that position, are they? So, I’d give him a go. He came on tour three years ago, didn’t he? In Australia. He scored that goal in Perth. He looked decent then, and I think Ole [Gunnar Solskjaer] had plans to integrate him, but for whatever reason, that didn’t happen. He’ll get another shot and I’m sure he’ll be ready to impress.”