Teden Mengi’s loan spell at Derby County has been a stop-start one so far.
Prior to last night the Manchester United loanee had been selected to start just one of a possible six games for the Rams, and that one was at right-back.
Mengi finally got his start at centre-back last night… and it did not go well at all.
Derby were battered away at Cardiff City, losing 4-0, Wayne Rooney’s worst result as manager.
It was a result equalling their worst of the season, which came back in September.
Derby were outplayed by a superior, in form side in Cardiff who have now won four straight and are in the play-off spots.
Mengi played all 90 minutes as Derby slipped to a defeat which leaves them in 18th.
Cardiff were 3-0 up after 56 minutes before adding a fourth goal in stoppage time.
Mengi saw plenty of possession, touching 125 times in total as Derby tried to play out from the back. He completed 93 per cent of his passes. Many of these passes were to fellow centre-back Matthew Clarke, who racked up 130 touches.
He won five aerial duels, more than any Derby defender, although failed to win a tackle.
An all-new defence is always a risk, and with a central midfield consisting of Rangers loanee George Edmundson and Everton’s Beni Baningmine, this was a night where Derby’s inexperienced spine proved to be a real weak point, with players who simply may not be ready for Championship football.
Despite all the hype about Mengi, his under-23 performances for United in the first half of 2020/21 were distinctly underwhelming. He seemed to lack the commanding and assured presence he showed last season.
This loan spell at Derby was always going to be very challenging for him, and after a result like last night, Rooney might be apprehensive to put him in again.
Cardiff’s more experienced team were simply better, with Wales international Kieffer Moore on the scoresheet, along with Dutchman Leandro Bacuna, who has played in the Premier League with Aston Villa.
This is simply part of the experience for Mengi. He joined a team in a relegation fight and Derby’s inconsistent results reflect that.
Wayne Rooney is still learning at management level too, and being one of three young loan players in the starting line-up didn’t make it easy for Mengi on his first start, with two teenage Derby academy graduates among the starters too. This was a night where too much rotation backfired.
It wasn’t the best early impression for Mengi to make on Derby fans, but hopefully they won’t write him off after one bad display. If they did, it would not be surprising, football can be so fickle, and he will have to prove them wrong.
It was a brave decision from United to send Mengi on loan to the Championship at just 18. Last night will have been a shock to the system, a tough reality check.
This is one to chalk up to experience, and hopefully Mengi will still get a chance to play a part in a few wins before the season comes to an end.
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