Marcus Rashford was not the only Manchester United youngster to make his first start against FC Midytlland in February 2016.
While Rashford has gone on to score 67 United goals and counting in just over 200 appearances, represent England, and even earn a place on the front cover of Vogue magazine for his political activism, his former teammate Joe Riley has been on a very different path.
Riley lined up at right-back against the Danes and acquitted himself well for Louis van Gaal’s side in the Europa League win.
He had earlier featured as a substitute in a cup win over Shrewsbury Town, before his first start. But while Rashford’s performance against the Danes sparked a career which is on its way to being a very successful one, Riley did not make another appearance for United.
Bad luck but he’s not giving up
Riley was not helped by Van Gaal’s removed as manager months later. He never stood much of a shot under Jose Mourinho.
He did get a very good loan move in January 2017 to Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United, who were trying to win promotion from League One. His spell there was cut short after just two games by an unlucky shoulder injury.
The MEN reported he suffered an injury as he sought to retrieve a ball in training, colliding with a fence and damaging his shoulder. Riley said afterwards: “A freak accident has held me back a bit but I guess you have these in life.”
By time it came to June 2018 it was no surprise he was released to pursue further opportunities, and he signed with Bradford City.
His spell with the Bantams can only be described as disappointing. He made only eight appearances in two years and was released this summer, with his spell at the club hampered by injuries. Now as of this week, he has a fresh opportunity.
Riley was a free agent for just over a month. He has signed a deal with Carlisle United.
It is a good move for the 23-year-old, with the one year contract having an option to be extended for a further 12 months until 2022 if he does well.
Manager Chris Beech spoke highly of Riley’s ability and work ethic, and pledged to get him back on track.
Beech told the club website: “He’s worked his socks off on his fitness and is now more motivated, hungry and determined than ever. He really wants to make his mark in the game.
“I also see the characteristics I’ve spoken about many times that I’m looking for in players we recruit in Joe. Technically he’s outstanding – his touch, movement, ball control, range of passing and technical skills are definitely up there.
“Carlisle will provide Joe with the perfect platform to kick on and fulfil that potential. He’s another we will support and make better in terms of footballing experience. At 23 he’s the right age, in the right place, at the right time.”
It is good to hear a manager speak so glowingly about a young player who has had little luck over the past few seasons. Riley has talent, and just needs a positive break. He may just have found one.
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