Though Teden Mengi has travelled with Manchester United’s first team already, when he captains the club’s FA Youth Cup side against Leeds United on Wednesday night, it’ll be an enormous occasion. One of the biggest crowds in the competition is expected as an old rivalry resumes at youth level.
Which players can win the game for United against a good Leeds side?
Let’s begin with the captain Mengi. The 17-year-old is a force within this United side. His attitude is exemplary and his improvements this season have been enormous. Mengi has always been above his age group and spent much of his youth career playing alongside Mason Greenwood who is slightly older.
He’s a calm centre-back who has formerly played in midfield. The attributes he picked up from starting a bit further forward help him now and he’s able to step out of defence and affect the game from deep positions.
Mengi scored a powerful header for United in the most recent FA Youth Cup tie, a 2-0 win against Norwich City at Carrow Road. It’s not a rare occurrence and his goal scoring record, certainly lower down in the youth set up, has been impressive for a defender.
With 17 appearances for the under-23s this season, Mengi is more experienced than many of his teammates and will be key in pushing them on, especially if the Reds go a goal down.
In the Fourth Round, though, Mejbri stepped up. He cost United £9.3m last summer and his talent is evident. He has three assists in five Premier League 2 games, many of those appearances coming off the bench.
A mercurial midfield player who will be given a free role by United boss Neil Ryan. Mejbri improves in bigger games. In the Third Round against Lincoln City, he played well but he didn’t pull his team forward. They settled for a comfortable 2-0 win rather than going for more and Mejbri was part of that. He didn’t challenge himself enough.
With that free role previously mentioned, Mejbri should be able to find the space that Leeds leave United and expose them. His passing is superb but its his vision, movement and positioning that may stand out in a game like this.
There’s been plenty of praise from McCann from people who know at United. He’s a really tidy player, and that’s a compliment. McCann has a great ability to find the right pass and do it at the right time, splaying it cross field when necessary and keeping it short and sharp too.
He scored in United’s last FA Youth Cup game, converting from the spot to put the Reds in front. In the Third Round against Lincoln, it was he and Mark Helm who began moves for United’s goals. He’s not that likely to grab an assist, but he’ll keep the tempo high.
Devine is a left-back who’s been compared to Brandon Williams, for his style and looks. United have an abundance of talented full-backs in Devine, Williams, Laird and Dalot. It’s a blessing and Williams’ promotion to the first team means there’s space for Devine in the under-23s, where he’s made 11 appearances.
With four assists in six games at under-18s level, Devine could offer United something different and link up with striker Dillon Hoogewerf.
Brought in from Ajax, Hoogewerf has settled in at United. His goal scoring record isn’t sensational but he’s getting used to the English game. At only 16 years of age, Hoogewerf is a big presence up top with pace and a bit of strength. Those will only increase in time. He’ll be an outlet for United but he’s got to keep making runs even if it becomes a frustrating tie.
In the Third Round against Lincoln, Hoogewerf struck twice, though one finish was a little fortunate. Another two against Leeds and he’ll be one of the top goal scorers in the competition.
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