West Ham supporters can rest easy, for now at least, after it emerged that Manchester United will not be recruiting coveted teenager Oscar Borg on a permanent basis after he underwent a trial period with the club over the summer.
Borg is fast establishing himself among the most promising young prospects in English football, rising to greater prominence in recent months after he spent time with the Manchester United under-18 side.
The 16-year-old, who has drawn comparisons to Gareth Bale for his direct dribbling and left-footed crossing ability, featured for Manchester United in the Milk Cup in July and had been expected to move to Old Trafford.
However, the plug was pulled on a proposed deal after a compensation package with West Ham failed to be agreed, and Borg is now expected to sign a two-year professional contract with the east London club, having been at Upton Park since the age of 10.
It is notable victory for West Ham, and they will have taken great satisfaction from their ability to keep hold of a young player of such repute. This is not to suggest they will not lose Borg later down the line, as is inevitable should he reach his potential, but it is for the time being a moment to savour.
West Ham are not a ‘small club’ per se so there would be little reason to tune up the violins were a young player to escape from their clutches, but the incident with Borg is a triumph for teams of a lesser standing than Manchester United, and for the morals of football.
The Hammers are hardly saints when it comes to farming young talent and have been prepared to cherry pick from other clubs in past, as was demonstrated when they recruited a then teenaged Jermain Defoe from Charlton.
Compensation was paid on that occasion, as eventually became a legal requirement, while Manchester United were prepared to pay a token fee for Borg, who was essentially theirs to poach given he is yet to sign pro terms. But that does not make it right.
It is not the fault of Manchester United, rather a problem with the system, and GiveMeSport’s very own Paul Bailey has proposed a change that would allow clubs to get the most from the players they have worked hard to produce. You can have a read of that here.
Better off staying
Not always will it be the case that these teenagers do indeed fulfil what is expected of them but, in the case of Borg at least, he would certainly be better off staying at the Boleyn Ground for the moment rather than moving to Manchester.
At West Ham there will be a much more obvious and direct passage to the first-team, and it would be expected that, should he continue at the same trajectory, opportunities to play for the club in the Premier League will arrive in the next year or two.
Meanwhile, over at Manchester United they already have a teenager who is expected to dominate their left-side for the decade. Luke Shaw his name is, you may have heard of him, and he is another Borg has been compared to.
Were he to have moved to Old Trafford, Borg of course would have learned plenty from being an understudy to Shaw; a player who knows just what it is like to shoulder the burden of expectation at an early age.
However, barring any catastrophe, Shaw is unlikely to offer up many opportunities for any other players as the seasons progress, and any noteworthy senior experience for Borg during this formative years would have to be earned away from Manchester.
Shaw’s is a fine example of how a player should be dealt with at a young age, although perhaps he moved from Southampton too early for some. The exposure he was afforded during his time spent at St Mary’s is almost guaranteed to have never happened had he joined United while still a youth team player.
Becoming an established member of the West Ham first-team is precisely the education Borg needs and, in the long-term, this will benefit both him and, with any luck, the England team, should his chance eventually come.