Amid something of a first-team crisis, Manchester United told concerned fans that they have an “exciting pool of talent coming through from our youth and academy sections.”
One of the most exciting prospects is Teden Mengi and the English centre-back signed his first professional contract last week.
Mengi captained United’s under-16s and due to his physical stature has often played in higher age groups than his age would presume. Now 17, Mengi is a regular starter for Neil Wood’s under-23s side after Lee O’Connor’s departure to Celtic.
Mengi is a leader
Most impressive was his recent performance against Fulham. 16-year-old Will Fish came into the side after an injury to Italian defender Luca Ercolani. Mengi suddenly became the more senior in an extremely young Premier League 2 partnership. He continued to excel as he babysat Fish through his debut at that level.
His physicality is a gift but during a young player’s development, it can often prove a curse. Some clubs let players’ technical development stall because of their height, strength and pace. That’s not the case with Mengi who has developed into a composed and able defender in the under-23s.
The Wright Robinson College in Gorton was particularly delighted to see their former student sign his professional contract. Mengi is a local Mancunian talent. He made his debut for Wood’s under-23s against Newcastle United at the end of August. It was only a couple of years ago, aged 15, that his under-18s debut came in the 2017/18 season.
Composed centre-back with great athleticism
He’s showed a goalscoring ability in younger age groups and non-league tournaments though now he is a commanding centre-back. His height and aerial ability are a key attribute in his defensive ability but, playing in the same U16s side as Mason Greenwood, Mengi often popped up with a set-piece goal.
He was very occasionally used in a midfield role, romping through the pitch and rifling home to add to headed goals. Those are days gone by and Mengi is very much a central defender now. He’s not one for clearing the ball needlessly instead using his height, strength and speed to win the ball before playing back to his goalkeeper or forward to a deep playmaker.
Mengi plays for England U18
His professional contract is another step in the right direction and it’s an important season for the England under-18 international. If he can put in consistently good performances, he’ll finish the 2019/20 campaign as an accomplished 18-year-old centre-back. United will be looking at destinations for Jones, Rojo and potentially Bailly. Space may be there for a limited chance for Mengi, though a loan move next season is a more likely scenario.
For now, his development will be quick in the under-23s. His good reading of the game will improve and with such a thin squad, perhaps an unfortunate set of injuries will leave Teden Mengi travelling with the first team at some point this season. He’s stepped up to every challenge so far.
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