Manchester United’s under-23 team take on Chelsea on Friday night.
The game will be United’s final under-23 fixture of 2020.
United won’t have a under-23 game then until January 18, exactly a one month gap.
With a packed first team schedule during this winter break, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs to look at whether any of the young players can make the step up over the festive period.
United are not struggling with injuries at present but that could quickly change, and the games come so quickly that there will be plenty of rotation.
There is a cup quarter-final against Everton next week, while in early January there will be a FA Cup tie at home to Watford.
It would be sensible for Solskjaer to look at the under-23 top performers, and those who excel in positions where the squad is weak on options, to see who deserves to step up.
That is why this Friday’s under-23 game could serve as an audition for United’s young players, with the team sitting sixth in Premier League 2, just four points off leaders Chelsea at the top.
Five players on the fringes
These are the five under-23 players on the fringes of United’s first team who have a chance to feature over the festive period.
Facundo Pellistri: Deadline day signing Facundo Pellistri has now scored three goals in his last three games. He plays in a wing position where United desperately need options and he is likely to get a chance over the next month. He should be involved against Watford, if he is not before.
Ethan Galbraith: It may take an injury or two for Ethan Galbraith to get a chance in United’s packed midfield. The Northern Ireland international has been very impressive for the under-23s this season and needs to be challenged further. Solskjaer should bring him up to train with the first team group over the next month and go from there.
Ethan Laird: Young right-back Ethan Laird is fit again after a tough start to the campaign. He provided an assist for Pellistri’s goal in the under-23 derby against City at the weekend. United need an attacking option in the position to compete with Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Laird needs to be challenged to step up.
Teden Mengi: Currently Teden Mengi is United’s fifth choice centre-back. An injury or two will bring him up the pecking order. The best he can hope for is probably a few minutes off the bench if United have a healthy advantage towards the end of a match.
Arnau Puigmal: Any list of United’s top under-23 players needs Arnau Puigmal on it. The young Spaniard has scored seven goals this season and has been the team’s most consistent and outstanding player. With an ability to play midfield and right-back, United should keep the door open for him to step up.
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