If Solskjaer must look to U23s to replace Jones vs Norwich, Mengi is best bet

Though Manchester United’s academy has an abundance of talent, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s centre-back crisis is a problem.

There is no clear, stand-out defender ready to step in if Phil Jones is not ruled fit for Saturday’s match against Norwich. The Mirror report he is a doubt after ‘limping’ down the tunnel after the City game.

Teden Mengi, who’s only 17, might be United’s best bet to step in. While The Mail report Harry Maguire could be fit, it would be irresponsible to rush him back.

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Mengi is yet to make his debut for the club but his performances for United and England demonstrate his character.

That is the key with a debutant at a club the size of United: to be able to cope with the pressure. Mengi captained United at under-16 level and is the first name on the team sheet of the under-23s at the age of just 17.

Mengi not quite ready for debut, but could be worth a shot

It is undoubtedly not the perfect time for Mengi’s debut. United are in bad form and under pressure as a whole team. Mengi is just 17 and not completely ready to play first team football. He will probably look to Axel Tuanzebe’s loan success at Aston Villa in the Championship for inspiration in the future.

But Mengi is a seriously talented defender. He’s always been blessed with a great physique, the perfect one for a defender: tall, quick and strong.

His promotion into the under-23s means his technical development has hastened; a better reading of the game and improved passing under pressure. 

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A first team chance can be a springboard for so many players, some of whom coaches would not have expected to develop so quickly. Brandon Williams is an example. Marcus Rashford is another.

Dishon Bernard is another option for United

United’s other option is Di’shon Bernard, who signed from Chelsea a couple of years ago. He’s had to deal with the rejection he faced at Chelsea and is another strong character.

Bernard was one of the many youngsters to make their debuts in United’s trip to Kazakhstan. He was unfortunate to concede an own goal against Astana. A start against Norwich could help to make up for that mistake, though it was of little consequence. 

Solskjaer is unlikely to start either Mengi or Bernard, though the latter might be more of a possibility. Mengi’s pace and strength would be a good addition alongside Victor Lindelof.

The pace of the Premier League would be a serious challenge but Solskjaer has to consider them as options.

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Life-long Manchester United fan with a strong interest in the club's academy. Host of the Manchester United Weekly Podcast and United Through Time. First game at Old Trafford was the 7-1 rout of AS Roma in 2007.