The Man Utd youngsters eager to shine when Red Devils host Chelsea

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

For a number of years, a clash between Manchester United and Chelsea with less than a month of the Premier League campaign remaining would often be a defining one.

United's days of competing for – and regularly winning – the title are over for now, though, with the Red Devils languishing down in sixth place.

Indeed, following Saturday's 3-1 loss to Arsenal – their third defeat in four games – the Red Devils are also now effectively out of the race for a top-four finish.

While there is little to play for on the face of it, the remaining four matches at least provides Ralf Rangnick a chance to experiment before being replaced by Erik ten Hag.

Rangnick has admitted United need a huge squad overhaul if they are to compete for major honours again, but the club must also look to get more out of their academy products.

With that in mind, Stats Perform looks at some of the youngsters who may get a chance to shine when United welcome Chelsea to Old Trafford on Thursday.

Manchester United have used just four played aged 21 or under
Manchester United have used just four played aged 21 or under


Experience favoured over youth

Whether it be Ole Gunnar Solskjaer or temporary successor Rangnick in charge, United have tended to avoid picking younger players this season.

The average age of United's starting XI in the Premier League in 2021-22 is 27 years and 200 days – only seven sides, Chelsea among them, have named older line-ups.

Once famed for giving youngsters an opportunity, United have used just four players aged 21 or under in the league this campaign, and one of those was a £73million signing in the form of Jadon Sancho (who turned 22 in March).


Hannibal hungry to impress

Hannibal is highly regarded at Old Trafford but has just six minutes of playing time to his name this season, coming late on in the recent 4-0 defeat to Liverpool.

That was the first indicator Rangnick had thrown in the towel and was ready to look to the future, and Hannibal certainly left his mark – albeit on a couple of Liverpool players.

The tenacious midfielder committed as many fouls as any United player at Anfield, despite being introduced late on, and was one of two players to be cautioned.

With fellow midfielders Nemanja Matic, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard all soon to make way, and Fred not fully fit, Hannibal may well get another opportunity against Chelsea.

Already capped 12 times by Tunisia at senior international level, now is the time for United to unleash the teenager's full potential while they have an opportunity to do so.

Hannibal Mejbri has had limited playing time for Manchester United
Hannibal Mejbri has had limited playing time for Manchester United


Shoretire set to star

Hannibal was one of four academy players that took part in training ahead of the Chelsea match, along with Alvaro Fernandez, Shola Shoretire and Will Fish.

Winger Shoretire is the most well-known of those youngsters, having made four appearances for United in all competitions.

He became the youngest player to represent United in European competition last year when featuring against Real Sociedad in the Europa League at 17 years and 23 days.

Appearances have been pretty fleeting since, though he also had a 22-minute run-out against the (appropriately named for this focus) Young Boys in the Champions League four months ago.

While others may have garnered more attention of late, Shoretire has continued to showcase his talents consistently for the Under-23s side and deserves a promotion.


Fish ready to scale new heights

The fact that Fernandez and Fish also took part in training with the senior players this week suggests that they will be part of the squad to face Chelsea at the very least.

Left-back Fernandez has been made to bide his time for a senior debut, whereas centre-back Fish made a cameo appearance in the Premier League under Solskjaer last year.

He was subsequently loaned to Stockport County ahead of the 2021-22 campaign, only to be recalled in January, though his time since has been spent with the reserves.

Tipped as a future star at the back for United since making his Under-23s debut at the age of just 16, Fish now needs the platform to showcase his talents at the highest level.

Manchester United's starting line-up this season has averaged an age of 27 years and 200 days
Manchester United's starting line-up this season has averaged an age of 27 years and 200 days


Garanacho grabbing attention

Unsurprisingly given their status as one of the biggest clubs in the world, United have a whole raft of talented teens that have been heralded as the next big thing.

Look no further than Alejandro Garnacho, who has been an unused substitute for the senior side's last three matches.

The winger is still aged just 17 and therefore has time on his side, but the early indications are that he could be a first-team regular in the next couple of seasons.

Charlie Savage, the son of one-time United academy product Robbie, is also on the cusp of being a first-team squad regular and has featured once already this season.

Zidane Iqbal was also given his first-team breakthrough under Rangnick in December, but has frustratingly – albeit understandably – had to bide his time for more senior minutes.

With nothing left to salvage in what has been another dire season, Rangnick could do a lot worse than turn to the next generation of talent to give supporters hope for the future.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting