There’s no getting away from it, Timothy Fosu-Mensah’s selection was a major shock before Manchester United beat Crystal Palace 2-0 on Thursday night.
It was his first start since May 2017 and a match which saw one of the 10 players who stepped out alongside Fosu-Mensah last night make his debut.
His development has been remarkable, and we’ve taken a look at it, as well as where some other starters that day have ended up…
That match, which was also against Palace, under Jose Mourinho, also saw Scott McTominay make his United bow.
United heavily rotated the team, with the 2017 Europa League final taking place just days afterwards.
It was no secret that Mourinho was a huge fan of McTominay’s humility and physicality, seemingly taking a great interest in his development.
In the time between Fosu-Mensah’s last start and last night, McTominay’s career has exploded.
There was an argument for calling him United’s best player in the opening part of the season, before injuries and the resurgence of Nemanja Matic limited his contribution in 2020.
McTominay was also the only other change in Solskjaer’s starting 11, alongside Fosu-Mensah last night, but their careers have gone in hugely diverging directions since the last time they shared a pitch.
Where are they now?
There are a couple of other names which catch the eye from that 2017 teamsheet, most notably Joel Pereira, Demetri Mitchell and Josh Harrop.
Pereira is now 24, and spent 2019/20 on loan at Hearts, who have just been relegated into the Scottish Championship. His future remains unclear, with David de Gea, Sergio Romero, Lee Grant and Dean Henderson all blocking his path to the first team.
Mitchell also spent time with Hearts – two loan spells – but United announced last month that they would be releasing him on the expiration of his contract, although they are offering a package of support in these uncertain times.
Harrop joined Preston on a four-year contract just two months after debuting – and scoring – in that Palace match. He has played 30 times this season in their push for promotion from the Championship, scoring five goals (Transfermarkt).
Perhaps the tales of Fosu-Mensah, Pereira, Mitchell and Harrop indicate that taking the plunge and leaving United in search of first team football is the way to go.
But McTominay’s evolution into a United first-teamer indicates just how sweet the rewards can be for those who knuckle down after they get their first team bow.
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