Manchester United switched a few players around this week in training as preparations got underway for the Barcelona fixture.
United host Barcelona in the Europa League play-off second leg. In the first leg two young midfielders were on the bench at the Nou Camp, Kobbie Mainoo and Zidane Iqbal.
But at the start of this week, Mainoo and Iqbal were part of United’s under-21 side playing against Crystal Palace to get some extra game time under their belts. The game ended 0-0.
This left United a couple of players short in training, so Erik ten Hag delved into the academy and called up the two youngsters who saw their places taken.
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Gore and Collyer called up
FA Youth Cup winning midfielder Dan Gore (top) and 2022 addition from Brighton, Toby Collyer (above) were promoted to train with the Manchester United first team.
This was an illustration of the links Erik ten Hag is cultivating between the senior squad and the academy, enabling young players to get regular experience with the first team.
It was in sessions like these which Kobbie Mainoo caught Ten Hag’s eye. At the weekend he made his Premier League debut.
Gore, 18, played in the Youth Cup alongside Mainoo and Alejandro Garnacho last season, and is very highly regarded. This season he has stepped up to the under-21s.
He has featured as a starter in four of the under-21s last five wins and even captained the team in the 4-1 win over Everton the previous weekend.
Collyer, 19, had also featured in the last four under-21 games, twice as a starter, and has been solid in his first full season with Manchester United.
Later this week Mainoo and Iqbal will jump back ahead of them in the pecking order and could both make the bench for the Europa League second leg.
But it is great to see how Ten Hag is rotating his options and managing his players’ development. The Mirror reported earlier this year how the manager was taking a more hands-on role with the under-21s and directing who gets game time, and how much.
He is clearly keen that if he needs either Mainoo or Iqbal over the coming games, that both players be as match sharp as possible.