Manchester United need to do what Bayern Munich are doing to get another Bruno Fernandes

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer distrusts his reserve attackers but has three exciting teenagers to turn to and galvanise Man United's season.

Posted  464 Views updated 1 year ago

The scheduling of EFL Trophy ties is as random as the government choosing which region goes into which tier. The Manchester United Under-21s' defeat to Accrington Stanley kicked off an hour before the first-team lined up in Leipzig and, of the two, the finer football was played at the Crown Ground.

Facundo Pellistri craftily scored his second goal for the United second string, duping goalkeeper and defender, and Anthony Elanga continued his burgeoning start to the campaign with a virtuoso solo effort that started midway inside his own half.

Pellistri turns 19 on December 20 and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has named the Uruguayan on the bench twice in the Champions League. He might have made his debut in the win over Istanbul Basaksehir had United not wobbled late on and the only derby Pellistri is likely to be involved in this weekend is at Under-23 level against City at Leigh on Sunday.

"Facundo has come in, trained with the first-team, done well," Solskjaer said last week. "We felt now is time for him to get game time, and he's played a couple of games in the reserves and is gradually settled in nicely and getting more used to us."

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Elanga was United's standout performer in the FA Youth Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea at St George's Park, where he clattered the crossbar with an innovative overhead kick from some keepy-ups. The 19-year-old has four goals in nine Premier League 2 matches this term and is one of the main reasons behind United's ascent to sixth in the table.

The U23 coach Neil Wood was privately concerned about relegation on the eve of the season but United have won four of their last five and it is a matter of time until Elanga, a Sweden youth international, is called across to the main building at Carrington to enter the first-team dressing room.

"You look at the likes of Mason and Rashy, there is a pathway there," Elanga said in October. "It just shows you that if you're willing to put the work into it and continue to work hard day in, day out in training there's a pathway for you there.

"Obviously we've got a manager in Ole trusting the youngsters, so there's a pathway there and I've just got to keep working hard."

Eleven academy graduates have debuted on Solskjaer's watch and Elanga, bright on his only first-team outing in the September friendly at Aston Villa, is well poised to become the twelfth. United are synonymous with taking risks and promoting youth but those facets of their identity were largely absent in Leipzig.

United were risk-aversive from the start but Mason Greenwood was fearless and his resolve earned the penalty that gave United a modicum of hope. Greenwood is still only 19 and was entrusted with starting against Tottenham at the start of a pivotal week this time last year.

The United academy is lacking a first-team-ready prodigy like Greenwood last year to turn Solskjaer's head, though he may soon glance across at the academy building and settle on more promotions.

In Leipzig, Solskjaer ignored substitutes Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Daniel James and Odion Ighalo with United 3-0 down and sent on defenders Axel Tuanzebe and Timothy Fosu-Mensah. Solskjaer had thrown in the towel but the mitigation could not mask his distrust of James, how redundant Ighalo has become or that Lingard is about as appealing as that cremated turkey he posed with on Thanksgiving.

Injuries to the anodyne Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani saw Solskjaer's reservations about the squad depth resurface and it is partly why there is growing excitement over Amad Diallo among supporters.

The nearer Diallo, 18, gets to joining United in January the more he plays for Atalanta. He was bright on his first appearance of the season in a cameo against Verona and made his Champions League debut in last week's draw with Midtjylland.

As the MEN revealed four days before Diallo's deadline day signing, United partly moved for the teenager before new criteria was drafted up for Premier League clubs to sign 18 to 21-year-olds post-Brexit. United are still in the process of obtaining a work permit for Diallo, who was born in the Ivory Coast but moved to Italy at a young age.

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"Amad has come on a few times for Atalanta lately," Solskjaer noted on Friday. "He is a very exciting young boy and talent and hopefully we'll get the work permit and he'll be with us in January. A very, very exciting boy as well."

In Pellistri and Diallo, United have right and left-footed right wingers available to them in the second half of the season and Solskjaer could do with some wild cards available off the bench.

At Bayern Munich, the 17-year-old Jamal Musiala emerged after 25 minutes against RB Leipzig at the weekend and scored five minutes later in an enthralling 3-3 draw. "He’s a very talented man," the Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann enthused.

Although born in Stuttgart, Musiala is an England Under-21 international who left the Chelsea academy in July of last year - six months after Bayern's fruitless pursuit of Callum Hudson-Odoi. An attacking midfielder, Musiala became Bayern's youngest Bundesliga player in June, netted on his first appearance of the season and started in the draw at Atletico Madrid last week.

Musiala has three Bundesliga goals and the only other players to have tallied the same amount at 17 were Christian Pulisic, Kai Havertz and Timo Werner. Coach Hansi Flick has named Musiala in every Bayern matchday squad so far this season and he already has three winner's medals.

Solskjaer will need a mid-season catalyst, a la Bruno Fernandes, if Paul Pogba leaves the departures' lounge and Bayern are not as renowned for giving youth a chance as United. They can do just that with raw rookies Diallo, Elanga and/or Pellistri, all relatively unknown quantities without a minute of competitive English football between them.

Who are they? Exactly.


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  • Manchester United need to do what Bayern Munich are doing to get another Bruno Fernandes
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