It was hard not to feel a bit sorry for Tahith Chong last Thursday at Manchester United. Given his first start, nothing went right for him against Astana. He looked like he knew it too.
We shouldn’t be surprised. Chong has been on the fringes of the first team for nearly a year, and has had to wait so patiently for his first start. For it to be a let down was a bit inevitable.
Luckily Chong has an ideal opportunity to bounce straight back against Rochdale this week.
This is a positive situation for the Dutchman, who might normally have to wait months for another chance. Often young players get one shot, and that’s it. United’s fixture list and lack of wide options means Chong warrants a closer look.
What if it doesn’t go well?
Chong received some criticism from supporters after his performance against Astana.
He was one of three players we mentioned too, who struggled in the game. That doesn’t mean we don’t believe in him, sometimes you just have to tell it as it is. And Chong can get better.
If he can’t, then that’s not the end of the line. There are five more Europa League matches, and potentially more Carabao Cup games if we go through.
The problems for the Dutchman may be mental. Getting that first goal, or setting up one, can make him feel like he belongs. He showed flashes in pre-season of what he is capable of, and against Leicester as a substitute his pressing and energy helped United see out the victory.
The worst case scenario is that Chong cannot make the leap, in which case he would be sent out on loan in January, perhaps for the best. Come back stronger and try again next season.
If it does go well…
Happy days. Chong is a player with so much potential who could make a huge difference to United if he is able to make the leap.
The young Dutchman is too good for under-23 football, he showed that earlier this season when he dropped down into the side and scored twice in one game.
He needs to be challenged and United should be patient with him. He’s just 19. The coaching staff will be working with him to ensure he is more composed, more confident, and plays his natural game.
Chong has the potential to give United a big lift at a time when attacking options are stretched. These games are crucial for his development.
Having another chance so soon after the last is fortunate. It gives him the chance to wipe the memory of the last match away quickly, and he has to take advantage of that.
Make an impact, and more significant opportunities will beckon, and he will thrive in those by virtue of feeling like the pressure is easing.
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