Manchester United’s opening weekend victory over Leeds was a perfect way to kick off the season.
Key stars made big impacts on the game, with Bruno Fernandes scoring three goals and Paul Pogba providing four assists. Mason Greenwood also netted his 30th United goal.
Two players not involved at all were academy talents James Garner and Teden Mengi, who are both currently caught in the ‘too good for academy football’ and ‘not at first team level’ category.
Neither Garner and Mengi made it into United’s match day squad, even with nine substitutes permitted. Both players were cheering on the team from the stands.
Futures unclear for both players
Mengi’s prospects always seemed likely to involve a loan. Eventually one will be found for him before the deadline, whether that is to former loan side Derby or another club.
The centre-back could be forgiven for being disappointed at failing to make the nine-man bench.
United were without Raphael Varane who was not registered in time, and Eric Bailly, who has not resumed training after the Olympics. Phil Jones was also out.
And even with them being ineligible and Mengi starting three pre-season matches against loaned out Axel Tuanzebe, the young defender still could not make the bench.
Partly it was due to the quality of senior player and United’s squad depth, and it also told us that Solskjaer believes Mengi is not ready for Premier League football.
A similarly frustrating situation faces James Garner, who has evidently not had the game-changing pre-season he might have liked.
Andreas Pereira was preferred on the bench to Garner, and while that was perhaps Solskjaer wanting to reward the senior pro for a solid pre-season, it was disappointing for the 20-year-old.
Garner started only one of four pre-season games and there is huge competition for places in midfield without United making any signings in the position. Him missing out on the matchday squad showed how far off he is.
This was with United missing Marcus Rashford, Anthony Elanga, Amad, Jesse Lingard, and Edinson Cavani. It is going to be a battle for Garner to get into match day squads this season on this evidence, let alone game time.
A loan is most likely for Garner. Whether he can land a Premier League move is unclear. The Sun reported Championship sides Sheffield United and Nottingham Forest are both keen.
With United more competitive than in recent years and possessing a strong squad, the task of young players to break through is tougher as a result.
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