Teden Mengi was back with Manchester United’s under-23 team at the weekend.

The young centre-back has spent the first part of the season training with United’s first team.

This past weekend was a fork in the road moment for Mengi. He could have been called up to start against Newcastle, amid a woeful defensive record to start the season, and a possible need to rest Harry Maguire.

Instead he was with the under-23s as they took on Arsenal on Saturday afternoon, in a game which ended in a 3-3 draw.

Arsenal v Manchester United: Premier League 2
(Photo by Tom Purslow/Manchester United via Getty Images)

This was a necessary detour for Mengi, who is still a player with potential to break into United’s starting XI.

Mengi needs game time. All young players do. And in a difficult 2020 with a curtailed academy season, it is important he plays games. Mengi’s message on social media after the game underlined this.

It was at around this time last year that Mason Greenwood dropped down a level to get some important minutes under his belt.

Despite scoring against Astana in the Europa League in September 2019, Greenwood ended October 2019 playing in a EFL Trophy game against Doncaster for the under-21s.

Days earlier he featured against Stoke City’s under-23 side, scoring in both matches.

This gave the teenager a boost he needed before returning to the first team set up.

 

What’s ahead for Mengi?

Mengi’s return to academy level may last a little longer. United have Axel Tuanzebe back at full fitness and he has overtaken him in the first team pecking order.

But this is not a strict demotion for Mengi. It is a must for him to play and get minutes in.

Mengi’s previous appearance was in the EFL Trophy win over Salford back on September 10.

Manchester United v Aston Villa: Pre-Season Friendly
(Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

United also have the return of the FA Youth Cup to look forward to. The semi-final postponed from March, against Chelsea, will be held on October 30. The final will be held days later.

Mengi remains eligible and he will likely captain the side, having played a key role in United’s run to the last four.

This will also provide a good platform for Mengi to showcase his ability, leadership skills, and get a taste of lifting silverware.

It is harder to throw in a centre-back into the first team, than it is a striker, but Mengi will likely get a chance before the season is over.

In the mean time, United have to keep ensuring he has game time so his development does not stall, and to prepare him so he is ready and sharp for when his opportunity comes along.

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