Tahith Chong scored a goal in a friendly for Manchester United on Friday. ‘So what?’, you may ask. For Chong, the importance of the goal should not be dismissed.
Chong is a talented player who for most of last season looked like he believed he did not quite belong at first team level. He was nervous, anxious, and lacked the composure he showed in under-23 games.
This came off the back of an only moderately positive pre-season, which left his chances few and far between. When they came, he didn’t impress.
But when he dropped back to under-23 football, Chong excelled. He has six goals and six assists in seven games, an outstanding return.
Beginning to click
With his future also resolved by way of signing a long-term contract in March, Chong’s performances began to pick up.
In two substitute appearances against Club Brugges and LASK he provided two assists, in his last 64 minutes of first team football. The second of which was a terrific counter attacking through ball to set Mason Greenwood up for a clinical finish.
His goal against West Brom in Friday’s friendly showed he may be ready to pick up where he left off.
It was also notable that it came in a behind closed doors match. These are scenarios in which Chong has thrived at under-23 level, with minimal to no crowds in attendance.
The lack of supporters in attendance will take some of the pressure off Chong, and allow him to concentrate on his football and not the situation.
This is exactly what he needs as he continues his transition to becoming a first team regular, and we could see more of Chong’s game changing ability.
He is beginning to warm up nicely, and while a friendly goal will not matter to some players, it will do for Chong, helping him to feel as though he belongs at this level.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his staff have done great work with him to restore his confidence after his open goal miss away at Astana, and the next few weeks are really important for the 20-year-old Dutchman.
His status next season is still unclear, he could be loaned out if it is deemed best for his development, combined with the factor of incoming signings making the battle for game time tougher.
That is why these next few weeks present Chong with an opportunity to step up, and show what he is capable of, and build a case that he should be a first team player next season. He may finally be ready to contribute.
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