Angel Gomes and Tahith Chong take the next step in their Manchester United adventures this week against Astana.
This time they are no longer the ‘new kids on the block’ and are experienced hands by comparison to some of the young players in the squad.
Gomes made his United debut back in 2017, while Chong made his bow back in January of this year.
Neither player has had the instant success enjoyed by Mason Greenwood or Brandon Williams, but they are the exceptions and Chong and Gomes still remain in United’s plans.
They have both featured in the Europa League already this season, each starting in the home game against Astana.
It didn’t quite click for either of them, with Gomes giving a better account of himself than Chong, without really emphatically stating his case.
Could it be different this time?
United have named 14 young players in the travelling squad to Astana and this will be a totally unique test for the whole team.
It might actually benefit Gomes and Chong to take on more senior roles within the squad. They know what to expect behind the scenes, and can help out some like Largie Ramazani and D’Mani Mellor who have never travelled with the first team before. This may also translate onto the pitch itself too.
Gomes and particularly Chong looked a little overawed at Old Trafford back in September. They knew they were under the spotlight and would have felt a little out of place, out of their comfort zone, as young players in with a squad of established stars.
The duo may relish the responsibility this time of being more senior players within the side. It shows on the under-23 pitch when they drop down, with Gomes captaining the team, while Chong was captain in the recent EFL Trophy game.
The background to this is Gomes and Chong’s uncertain contract situations. Neither player have signed new deals and they expire at the end of the season.
It could be that what they need is a chance to shine, and feel comfortable as United players, to feel that they belong.
This is a great opportunity for them to play their natural games, with less pressure, and for it to feel more normal and less like an audition.
Having younger players look to them for guidance, rather than the other way around, may bring them out of their shells.
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