If reports in today’s press are true, then Manchester United starlet Paul Pogba is set for a big first team chance tomorrow night.
The English champions host Dutch giants Ajax in the second leg of their Europa League last 32 clash, with Frank De Boer’s side travelling to Old Trafford facing a two-goal deficit.
Ashley Young and Javier Hernandez put the Red Devils firmly in control during last week’s trip to the Amsterdam Arena, and the victory means Sir Alex Ferguson may look to rest some of his first team regulars against the Godenzonen.
The Scot certainly won’t be taking the Eredivisie champions lightly, especially after falling at the hands of FC Basel in the Champions League group stages. However, this fixture does give Ferguson the chance to thrust young players into the spotlight, given the advantage held.
United’s academy remains one of the best in Europe, and victory in last season’s FA Youth Cup suggests the future is looking bright. Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley are recent graduates, and two players the current crop can look to emulate.
And several got their first chance in this season’s Carling Cup, with Ezekiel Fryers, Larnell Cole and Jesse Lingard all impressing to a certain degree against Leeds, Aldershot and Crystal Palace. Fryers has since gone on to feature at Premier League level.
But two players in particular caught the imagination of the United fans – Pogba and Ravel Morrison.
Both were courted by clubs across Europe in the January transfer window, and it caught many by surprise to see Morrison leave. West Ham United took the gamble, but the teenager’s ability on the pitch has already been overshadowed on a number of occasions by his actions off it.
A recent charge relating to comments on Twitter suggests that Ferguson made the right move in letting such a talent go.
Pogba is a different story. Murmurs that the French youth international wanted to leave the club in January were based around his desperation to play first team football, and a league debut against Stoke in January could be seen as a ‘thank you’ for staying put by the manager.
The former Le Havre sensation is clearly ambitious, and it will be up to Ferguson to persuade the player that his time will come for United over time.
However, the occasional glimpse of first team opportunities will be a great way to sweeten the deal, and a chance in Europe even better.
A central midfielder, Pogba is capable of playing in both a defensive and attacking role, although has thrived at youth and reserve level playing in the forward-thinking position akin to Paul Scholes at Old Trafford.
"I mean if we hold Pogba back, what’s going to happen? He’s going to leave. You know, in a couple of years’ time when his contract is going to finish. So we have to give him the opportunity to see how he can do in the first-team and he’s got great ability, plus he’s got the physique and athleticism," Ferguson told the official United website in the summer.
Pogba replaced Paul Scholes in his testimonial against the New York Cosmos in the summer, and it would be in-place of the England legend that he seems to fit best tomorrow night.
With license to attack, the 18-year-old will have a chance to show his very best, with a very bright future in the pipeline for one of the club's biggest starlets.