James Wilson's future is an interesting prospect to ponder over. While he certainly is a talented young man, it's clear that his chances at Manchester United in the coming season will be limited, with Louis van Gaal having seemingly settled on a 4-3-3 system which requires just one central striker.
United will undoubtedly require at least two proven reserves to Wayne Rooney, whether it will be Falcao and Van Persie next year, or a new duo, is another question, but it seems highly unlikely Van Gaal will put his faith into such a talented, but wholly unproven young player.
Though time is still on his side, James Wilson will turn 20 next season, and while this certainly isn't time to write him off, he's at the stage in his career where he needs regular first team football, or risk stalling his development and wasting his talent.
This poses some questions: Where should his development continue, and does his long term future lie at Manchester United. As much as every United fan wants to see young, homegrown talent progress through the ranks and challenge for the first team, it's important to be realistic. James Wilson clearly has various qualities which he's proven at youth and reserve level for a couple of seasons now. But he certainly isn't ready to step up and challenge Wayne Rooney for the first team berth just yet.
The most obvious and logical solution would be a season long loan to a Premier League club, and I'm sure he would have many suitors were he available. This option would give him the first team action required to develop him as a footballer, as well as give him a chance to prove to United's coaching staff he deserves to be considered as the future of Manchester United's strike force.
It's still very much unclear if he has enough talent to become to player many Manchester United fans would like to see him become. Though he has pace in abundance and an excellent finish, his all round game is still under question, as Javier Hernandez's career has shown, it's not enough for a striker to be a one-dimensional goal poacher at the top clubs. Strikers need to be about to contribute more broadly than just poaching in the box, especially if they are being asked to play a lone striker role, and I think few would think he is ready for this role, yet.
The other alternative would be to continue his development at Manchester United, and take his chances in the cup competitions and the rare Premier League outings he would get. This option would allow him to continue his development under the tutelage of Manchester United's coaching staff, and allow him to prove his qualities to van Gaal every day on the training pitch.
Though this option has its merits, it clearly is far more risky for the player. It's difficult to ask a young striker to prove himself when he's only given opportunities once every couple of months, and it's also a risky strategy to rely on injuries to first team players to provide an opening in the team.
It clearly would be more logical to send him out on loan, but the bigger question is whether or not his long term future lies at Old Trafford. Though sad to say, the "Galactico" policy Woodward seems to keen to implement at United, though exciting for the fans, will be hugely detrimental to Manchester United's young prospects coming through the ranks, and a main casualty of this could well be James Wilson.
Though few United fans, myself included, could have resisted Falcao signing last summer (despite his terrible season), this expensive signing was certainly a luxury purchase. Had he not signed, James Wilson would have had ample opportunity to step up and prove himself throughout this season. Who knows how he would have performed, and relying on such a youngster in a hugely important season for the club would certainly have been a very risky strategy, and in many ways it was wise to sign another proven goalscorer in Falcao.
But without risk, how can young talent develop and prosper? So many of the great players over the years have been given their first team chance because of injuries and a lack of squad depth. Though I do not blame the United hierarchy for wanting to add depth to the first team squad, it is a sad and inevitable fact that this will be detrimental to our young players coming through the ranks.
Particularly so for the forwards. While van Gaal must be praised for placing faith in youngsters (Paddy McNair being the obvious example), in the system he seems to have settled on it will be almost impossible for James Wilson to break into the first team for the foreseeable future, and if the Galactico policy continues and we do end up signing more forwards this summer, this makes his prospects at the club look bleak.
It would be incredibly sad to see him leave permanently, and of course the best option for next season would be a loan to a Premier League club, but our transfer policy, though exciting and in many ways necessary to maintain United's position at the top of the world game, makes me worry for James Wilson, and other United youngsters', long term futures at Manchester United.