Tahith Chong dropped down to Manchester United’s under-21 side last night. It was a step back, to take two forward.
Chong needed a confidence boost and this game against Lincoln City provided it.
United are in their first EFL Trophy campaign, a competition which pitches under-21 sides (note not under-23s) against League One and League Two clubs.
Lincoln made eight changes for the match themselves from the weekend, and dominated the game. Proudly, this United side were able to still manage to win 1-0.
Young Dutchman Chong played a key role in United’s victory. Latching onto the ball in the centre, 30 yards out, he dribbled towards goal before laying a pass into the oncoming path of James Garner.
Latching onto the ball in the centre, 30 yards out, he dribbled towards goal before laying a pass into the oncoming path of James Garner.
The midfielder struck it first time from the edge of the box to score and give United the lead.
There was rightly some spotlight on Chong due to his recent involvement for United’s first team.
After a bright substitute appearance against Leicester City, Chong was given starts against Astana, and then Rochdale.
Against two teams who defended deep at Old Trafford it was tough for Chong, and his decision making and execution was poor. He looked nervous and was substituted early in both.
This game was a challenge for him, and he responded well. Chong was substituted at half-time in what appeared to be a pre-planned change.
As United In Focus writer Harry Robinson noted, this could be because he is set to be involved for United in the Europa League this Thursday.
United may need him against AZ Alkmaar. The first team squad is not blessed with wingers, and Dan James may need to be rested ahead of Sunday’s Premier League clash with Newcastle.
Letting Chong get some confidence back and help the under-21s out was the right decision. It could not have worked out much better.
There needs to be patience with him at first team level, and he is not as polished as Mason Greenwood, but he is a potential match winner, as he showed last night.
Garner deserves credit too for his latest strike. He is just prolific right now, producing a striker’s level goals per game ratio from midfield. He has six goals in seven games this season.
Chong may have featured for just 45 minutes, but he left an impression, and perhaps it will pay off as soon as this Thursday against AZ Alkmaar.
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