Thursday saw the conclusion of Manchester United’s Europa League group stage, with the table-toppers stomping over AZ at Old Trafford in a convincing 4-0 victory.
So far this campaign, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has taken a relatively laid back approach towards the Europa League, choosing the competition as the ideal opportunity for squad rotation and resting first-team players. Considering the sheer distance and inferior quality of the pitch of some of the away locations, this isn’t entirely unreasonable exercise either.
However, as a result there have emerged academy graduates who have really impressed during these outings, so much so that their performances ought to merit more gametime, that too in the Premier League. Here are three of them:
1. Axel Tuanzebe
The young defender has impressed in the defender’s role for quite a long time now. His cameo appearances have often secured the backline when required, which is an incredible feat as dismantling a centre-back partnership in the middle of games rarely goes well.
In particular, Tuanzebe’s lasting impact at the back can come as a viable replacement for Victor Lindelof. Being the first-choice centre-back alongside Harry Maguire can often take its toll and often the Swede looks tired. Further still, Lindelof has been prone to careless mistakes and form slumps throughout his career at Old Trafford.
As of such, the 22-year-old appears to be an apt and ready replacement in those Premier League games when Solskjaer wishes to rest his overworked defenders.
2. Mason Greenwood
This one is a no-brainer as the teenage forward has already netted the second-highest number of goals for Manchester United so far this season, behind Marcus Rashford.
Greenwood, who is a fan-favorite, thrives in the Europa League where Solskjaer trusts him with a start and is often kept on the pitch for the entirety of the game. This is a long departure from his Premier League cameos, which are often short and unimpactful.
These games often show the 18-year-old’s hunger for goals, a feat that Solskjaer commented upon in the aftermath of Thursday’s goal-fest. It is evident that Greenwood has a strong chance at more Premier League starts.
In fact, he may even become United’s most reliable option to replace Anthony Martial in the lone striker’s spot. This can also ensure that the club needn’t splash more cash over a replacement striker.
3. Brandon Williams
Throughout the strong lineup of academy graduates who have enjoyed an incredible start to life under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, perhaps few can boast of the fortunes of Brandon Williams.
At left-back, the starlet has been an instant success and an absolute fan favorite. His antics and dynamism in running and being involved has often excelled the workrate of the usual starters Luke Shaw and Ashley Young.
Further still, his passion at getting into duels, fighting off the opposition and fearlessly running into boxes to make offensive impacts of his own all add to a perfect United DNA.
The month of November has been kind to the youngster and it is fair to say if Solskjaer plays him more often, he can thrive into a real star.
An honorable mention has to be made of James Garner as well who has been steady in the midfield. However, he arguably has the toughest list of players above him who are almost impossible to oust. Scott McTominay and Fred have been excellent and Solskjaer prefers Paul Pogba there as well. When any of the above are injured or performing poorly, Andreas Pereira appears to be the preferred choice.
What does the future hold for these bright young men?