Two teenagers are currently the talk of the town in the red half of Manchester.
For a club that prides itself on their record of having at least one youth product in every match-day squad since 30th October 1937, there is always an added excitement among fans when they see one break into the starting 11.
Marcus Rashford, at just 18, is proving himself to be one of the most exciting Old Trafford products for many years. After his surprising withdrawal at half-time on Sunday at White Hart Lane, where Van Gaal was clearly frustrated with the striker for drifting too wide and, therefore, dampening his goal scoring threat; Rashford responded at the Boleyn Ground with his best goal yet.
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While the striker who scores goals, much like the goalkeeper who makes saves, will receive the majority of the spotlight, Manchester United’s young right-back has also been causing a wave of excitement among fans and pundits.
Timothy Fosu-Mensah put in yet another excellent and assured performance at right-back for the Red Devils, which surely cements his spot in the first-team for the remainder of the season.
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The 18-year-old, who stands at an impressive 6’3”, is versatile, quick, brave and strong. For the past three games, he has performed with the assurance of a veteran and the confidence of youth.
Against Everton at Old Trafford, he was initially brought on to play at right-back in the second-half, replacing the clearly unfit Marcos Rojo.
What followed was an excellent assist for the young Dutchman, crossing the ball along the ground for Anthony Martial to score the winning goal.
That was not the end for the 18-year-old, as he was then switched to centre-back after Daley Blind was withdrawn due to injury.
He slotted into the position with ease and, alongside Chris Smalling, successfully marshalled the dangerous Romelu Lukaku out of the remainder of the game, making a superb goal-saving clearance along the way.
The following week, Fosu-Mensah was rewarded with a start at right-back, over the more experienced Matteo Darmian, against Tottenham.
Manchester United’s number 51 was exceptional in that game as well, making superb tackles and helping to keep Spurs’ prolific strike-force quiet.
It is telling that once Fosu-Mensah was forced to leave the field after 70 minutes, United’s defence capitulated with two out of the three goals coming from United’s right-hand side, and his replacement, Matteo Darmian also giving away the free-kick that resulted in Tottenham’s second.
Against West Ham, in another crucial game for United, Fosu-Mensah gave yet another solid performance, contributing to both defence and attack, putting in tackles, winning headers and helping to bring a calm to the back-four.
The Dutchman began his footballing journey in the revered Ajax academy and this helps to explain not only his versatility, but his confidence and calmness on the pitch.
He moved to Manchester in 2014, at the age of 16, and has progressed through United’s youth system playing in a variety of positions, from across the back-four to central-midfield.
There is always a danger with versatile players that their ability is stagnated by being played in numerous positions during their career (just look at Phil Jones), but there is currently an opportunity for Fosu-Mensah at United to make the right-back position his own.
He has performed excellently so far, and the remainder of the season will be a great platform for him to cement his place in United’s squad for next season and, perhaps, pick up an FA Cup winners medal along the way.
Rashford and Fosu-Mensah have burst onto the scene this season and have given United fans something to be positive about after a rollercoaster season.
As with every young player, time must be given for their development and they must also be given the space to make mistakes without being lambasted.
It is hoped that whoever the manager of Manchester United will be this summer or next, will continue to encourage Fosu-Mensah, Rashford and others to go on and realise their potential as the future stars at Old Trafford.
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