The early rounds of the Carabao Cup often provides an opportunity for Premier League sides to give young players a chance.
A few factors are working against Manchester United in that regard this year ahead of this week’s third round tie.
Firstly, the fixture is a tough one. United host a West Ham side who will be keen to make up for the weekend’s defeat and could bring back top scorer Michail Antonio who sat out the last game due to suspension.
Secondly, United have a big cast of first team players desperate for an opportunity. Juan Mata has not had a kick this season and nor has Alex Telles, while Anthony Martial could get a start. Edinson Cavani is also hoping to be passed fit, while Solskjaer has already confirmed Jesse Lingard will start.
And thirdly, United have a under-21 game on Tuesday night against Bradford City in the EFL Trophy.
So there may not be space and opportunity for too many youngsters, if at all – but there are five who will at least be on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s radar.
Even if they do not make the starting line-up, perhaps even starting the night before, any of these five players could make the bench against the Hammers and play some part at Old Trafford on Wednesday night…
Anthony Elanga is arguably the most likely player to have a chance of featuring. He really shone in pre-season before getting injured, before netting for Sweden’s under-21 side during the international break.
Elanga needs this opportunity to shine while Marcus Rashford is out, so it is important he gets a chance. He did not play in the earlier EFL Trophy game, so could get a chance in the Carabao Cup this week.
He tuned up at the weekend with his first under-23 start of the season, in which he won a penalty and scored it.
The pacy youngster was United’s top scorer at under-23 level last season and scored for the first team in the Premier League in one of his two appearances.
Elanga’s prospects for the game could depend on whether United want to use the match to give Jadon Sancho game time, or whether Edinson Cavani starts, which could push Anthony Martial into a wide role.
Hannibal has been training with the first team this season and is making good progress.
The Tunisia international was sent off in the last EFL Trophy game after receiving two yellow cards, and it is expected – but not confirmed – he is suspended for the Bradford match.
This gives him a shot of being involved with the first team squad in midweek at least as a bench option against the Hammers.
Nemanja Matic and Donny van de Beek are the starting options if Solskjaer rotates the side. Hannibal is the youthful option if the boss chooses to save Matic for the weekend against Villa and subsequent Champions League tie.
Shola Shoretire is a player in form. The youngster has scored two goals in his last three games and also has two assists this season too.
Shoretire trained with the first team last Friday, which suggested Solskjaer was running the rule over him.
The problem for Shoretire is the position he plays in is crowded, with Lingard confirmed to start, and Juan Mata also in contention.
It is most likely Shoretire starts against Bradford and then gets a place on the bench in this one at best. If he does get a chance against West Ham, Shoretire can take it. He provided two assists for the first team in pre-season.
Alvaro Fernandez has been arguably the most impressive player for the under-23s to start the season.
The left-back was rewarded for this by being called up to train with the first team and even featured in Cristiano Ronaldo’s first session.
Fernandez has two goals and one assist from the back so far and could manage to get a place on the bench in midweek.
Alex Telles will start the game at left-back. Then it is up to Solskjaer who he names among the substitutes, whether he prefers to give Luke Shaw the night off entirely and give Fernandez the first team squad experience, or if he would rather have the England defender there just in case.
Teden Mengi like Phil Jones is a long shot to feature in this one. Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof are the rotational back-ups expected to start this fixture.
It has been notable though that Mengi, rather than Jones, was chosen to captain the under-23s in the last two matches.
The teenage defender is highly rated and dependent on whether United give Maguire and Varane the night off to sit in the stands, there could be a place on the bench for Mengi.
He did not feature in the previous EFL Trophy game, and if that is the case again, Mengi could have some involvement in the matchday squad against West Ham.
- Conte may be a serial winner domestically but he hasn’t cracked Europe
- Manchester United loanee Dylan Levitt dominates in Dundee United draw
- Marcus Rashford sends message as he looks to fix Manchester United situation
- Three quick fix signings Manchester United could make in January to get back on track
- Manchester United youngster Sonny Aljofree celebrates meeting Cristiano Ronaldo
- Is a diamond formation the solution to Manchester United’s problems?
- Manchester United youngster Malachi Sharpe scores on Scotland under-17 debut
- Cristiano Ronaldo sends message as he looks to bounce back with Manchester United
- Five substitutes rule change would benefit Manchester United whoever is in charge
- Manchester City out of Carabao Cup: Did Manchester United miss out or have lucky escape?