Manchester United will hand debuts to several youngsters tonight. Di’Shon Bernard, Dylan Levitt and Ethan Laird have been confirmed as starters [Sky], while others are likely to feature from the bench.
But there are three young players who have already made their debuts and proved themselves, who will be key to the team’s success. Not just in this game, in numerous matches to come in the future.
Mason Greenwood will lead the line up front. James Garner will drive the midfield, and Axel Tuanzebe will marshal the defence.
These three players make up the team’s spine and could be a trio United depend on for many years to come.
Greenwood has four goals already for United’s first team, having made his debut last season.
At just 18-years-old he is one of the top striker prospects in world football. He is a future England international and could one day become one of United’s highest ever goalscorers.
James Garner has a start away at Partizan Belgrade under his belt already, and two further substitute appearances. He has barely scratched the surface on what he can do so far in these games.
He has been a regular goalscorer from midfield at under-23 level, and hasn’t had the chance to showcase this for the first team yet. Once he does, his quality will become even more apparent and more chances will beckon.
Axel Tuanzebe in the eyes of many fans, should already be an established United starter.
He has started two Premier League games this season and was on his way to a third, against Liverpool, before he got injured in the warm up and was out for six weeks.
The talented defender has shown what he is capable of this season already and will now be looking to mount a push to displace Victor Lindelöf and earn a place alongside Harry Maguire, for United, and even for England.
Overnight success isn’t easy
Becoming a United mainstay isn’t easy. Greenwood and Tuanzebe have found this out this season despite impressive performances. It is a stop-start process at this early stage of their careers.
In Tuanzebe’s case injury set him back just as he was establishing himself and now he must fight his way back into the first team again.
United are deliberately protecting Greenwood, holding him back, because on talent alone, there is no logical reason why he hasn’t started a Premier League game this season.
The same applies to 18-year-old James Garner. On pure talent, he should have been in midfield alongside Fred at Bramall Lane at the weekend ahead of Andreas Pereira.
Competition for places will make the fight to becoming established every week starters tough.
In Greenwood’s case he could be derailed by the arrival of a striker like Erling Haaland.
James Garner has to get past Paul Pogba, Fred and Scott McTominay when all are fit, and a new midfield signing is likely at some point too.
The journey to become an every week starter could take a couple of years for all three players, and they will have to rise to each and every challenge.
That’s why seizing every chance right now is so important, while they have the opportunities. They could even influence United’s transfer market decisions, just as Brandon Williams’ emergence has caused United to call off the search for a new left-back [The Times].
It will be fascinating to see how the trio respond to being more senior players than some of their more inexperienced teammates against Astana. They should thrive on the added responsibility, Tuanzebe has already captained the side this season once and could do again today.
While they must continue to grow and reach their potential, these are three players United are so lucky to have. All three have ability to be full internationals and can be a big part of United’s team for years to come.
What could be better than seeing United win silverware with a spine of homegrown talent? These three could turn a pipe dream into a reality.
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