Just after half-time, Tahith Chong sat a Stoke City defender down on the floor. The Dutchman had had a fantastic first half at the Bet365 Stadium and been at the centre of a three-goal flurry for Manchester United.
He looks a different player for the under-23s than for the first team. Fans of United and Stoke both commented that Chong looked far too good for this level.
Dynamic Chong is a different player in the under-23s
As a winger in the under-23s, Chong is dynamic, effective and fluent. Everything he did in the first half against Stoke came off. A reverse pass through the defensive line gave Aidan Barlow a chance after five minutes then Chong whipped an effort over the crossbar himself.
Timothy Fosu-Mensah latched onto a well-weighted ball down the right. Then he mazed towards the byline and cut the ball back across the face of goal. No one met.
It continued. He should have a penalty after being pulled back in the area. For Garner’s first goal, Chong delivered the perfect inswinging cross.
His crossing, passing and dribbling were all done with the confidence of a player who knows he’s good. And that’s how it should be.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has spoken on numerous occasions about how he wants his United players to be ‘humble but arrogant’. Humble in their work ethic, how they respond to fans and how they are as characters but arrogant in their belief in their ability.
Chong has the arrogance that Solskjaer wants, but not in the first team
Chong has that at under-23 level but not in the first team. Against Stoke, he argued with Ryan Shawcross, many years his senior, after a foul. His first weeks and first team appearances sapped the confidence out of him.
He doesn’t take on full-backs like he does in the under-23s and loses the ball easily. With or without the help of the United coaching staff, Chong has to go into first team games with belief. Otherwise, it’ll never work.
Some targeted training on his strength and use of the ball in tight spaces would help. There are lots of ways that Chong can recover his first team career at United.
United still want to keep him and performances like this one in the under-23s show why. Chong has to be patient and realise a departure might not be in his best interests.
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