An impressive first half from Manchester United last night wrapped up qualification for the last 16 by the break, with the score 4-1 on aggregate.
This allowed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to bring on Tahith Chong for the second 45 minutes, replacing Dan James, who had struggled.
Chong is still trying to prove himself, whether that be to United, or to prospective teams he is looking to sign for in the summer with his contract running down.
Solskjaer is still intrigued by him and used the second half to get a close look.
What did we learn?
Chong’s performance was similar to his recent cameo displays, just in a bigger sample size.
He still looks lightweight and can be easily dispossessed, but he does appear to have the trust and acceptance of his teammates, who were trying to find him with passes.
This was a first opportunity for Chong this season playing on the left wing, which has appeared his favoured position for the under-23s.
He looked a little frustrated at time and certainly seems anxious, probably knowing he needs to make an impact or it could be weeks before his next game, as has been the pattern this season.
Importantly, Chong’s game ended with an assist for Fred’s goal. It was an intelligent cut back from a wide area, where some wingers would have just swung the ball into the box and hoped.
Instead Chong looked up to find a teammate in space and found Fred on the edge of the area. Improbably he curled the ball into score his second of the game.
Fred’s second goal showed what can happen when a player’s confidence is lifted, and it is important to watch what Chong can do from here.
This assist just added gloss to United’s scoreline, but it was an important individual moment for the young Dutchman, who will still be having bad nightmares of his horror miss against Astana.
Chong has been a regular goalscorer in youth team games this season whenever he has played and dropped down a level. He’s got the talent, but something has been missing at first team level.
Until the assists, it wasn’t pretty. He managed only 25 touches in 45 minutes and lashed his only shot wide.
This performance still showed he has a lot of learning to do, and isn’t the incisive player United want him to be yet.
His assist was a step in the right direction, and might allow him to play a bit more freely now. We hope it does.
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