Teden Mengi and James Garner were drafted into Manchester United’s first team training group last Monday. One week on, they are still in there.
The promising young duo appear to have grabbed their chance to try and impress, and have earned more opportunities, even in a week when preparations are intensifying ahead of the club’s first Premier League match.
Mengi, 18, may be benefiting from Phil Jones’ injury, which has seen an extra spot open up at centre-back.
It is quite a jump for a player who prior to this season had not started an under-23 game for the club.
Mengi’s rise is notable considering he was an unused substitute away at Astana, with Di’Shon Bernard preferred. Despite being older, and an under-23 regular this season, Bernard is not training with the first team.
James Garner is back in the squad having already made his four Europa League starts already this season.
But they all came in the group stages, and when the knockout phase began, he was back playing in an under-19 friendly for United against Club Brugge, instead of tasting the real action.
When United’s training began without both players at the start of June, both players were doing individual fitness drills and small group sessions with other under-23 players.
Then last Monday the call came for both players to step up, and it could very easily have been a one-off, if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his staff were not impressed by their fitness, attitudes, or talent.
Instead the young pair have done enough to stay in the United manager’s planning, and are mixing in with Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes and co.
It may be a big ask for both players to make United’s 20-man matchday squad against Spurs, Garner probably has the better chance. But as the games continue, and unwelcome injuries hit, both players could gradually see an uptick in their involvement.
United’s depth in midfield and defence will make it tough for both players to start games, but with five substitutes allowed, they have more of a chance of getting on at some stage.
If there are matches in which United are winning comfortably, Solskjaer may see it as an ideal chance to get both involved and mix them in.
Garner has just been nominated for Europe’s Golden Boy Award, along with Angel Gomes and Mason Greenwood, two more youngsters who are battling for first team opportunities.
If either do end up making United’s bench against Tottenham this weekend, then it will show they really have made a big impression on Solskjaer over the past fortnight.
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