Dutch defender Bjorn Hardley is in for a big 2021/22 season for Manchester United’s academy.

Hardley has been promoted to the under-23s, and he will have a prominent role.

This is due to a combination of factors. Firstly, he is ready to step up. Secondly, exits have opened up a regular spot.

Will Fish and Di’Shon Bernard have left on loan, and Teden Mengi is expected to. Max Taylor was also released.

The scout who spotted Hardley playing for NAC Breda has been speaking about the 2019 move.

Manchester United v Arsenal: Premier League 2
Photo by John Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images

Quoted by Training Ground Guru, Rene Moonen, who formerly worked for Ajax, told of his first impressions of the young defender.

Moonen said: “He had not attracted the attention of any other club – understandable, given that very few scouts come to see NAC Breda.

“The advantage of my work method is that I go everywhere and therefore was able to see him in action. Right away, my mouth fell wide open: ‘Wow, this is a special kid.’

“Then I started to follow him more intensively, even together with a fellow Manchester United scout from the Netherlands (Roy Beukenkamp). He was also immediately blown away, after which four more people from United saw him in action in different matches. In the end, everyone was enthusiastic and now he plays for us.”

Ready to step up, but alongside who?

While Hardley’s first season in the academy was cut short due to the lockdown and he was occasionally shunted around to left-back, he really stepped up last season for the under-18s.

Hardley also made the leap to the under-23s, coming on as a first half substitute in a win over Arsenal and impressing.

Now he will play regularly for the 23s, and the only question is over who will partner him.

Mengi could begin with the under-23s if his loan does not materialise until the end of August.

Manchester United v Arsenal: Premier League 2
Photo by John Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images

There is a chance United could turn to Paul McShane, who is registered as an overage player as well as a coach.

The lack of current options is why United have defender Joseph Olowu on trial. He featured in the friendly win over Sheffield Wednesday yesterday, playing 79 minutes.

Under-18s prospects Rhys Bennett, Louis Jackson and Jack Kingdon are also in the pipeline, but an under-23s call could be just a little too soon.

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