United youngster Elanga deserves to retain starting place against Brentford

Anthony Elanga was a surprise inclusion in Manchester United’s starting line-up for the trip to Aston Villa.

With Marcus Rashford and Cristiano Ronaldo both unable for selection, and Anthony Martial’s exclusion bringing a different version of events from player and manager, Elanga was handed his first Premier League start of the season.

It says a lot about where Jadon Sancho is currently that Elanga was picked ahead of him, but instead of focusing on the former Borussia Dortmund man’s struggles, the academy star deserves credit for impressing Ralf Rangnick.

The German once again opted to go with a 4-2-3-1 formation, which saw the Swedish under-21 international play in front of Alex Telles on the left-hand side.

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For all the talk of United’s forwards not having the willingness to back Rangnick’s famed ‘gegenpressing’ philosophy, Elanga didn’t give Villa’s right-back Matty Cash a chance to breathe on the ball.

The 19-year-old won eight duels and made one interception, as well as one tackle. The youngster was eager to grasp his opportunity and show Rangnick that he can be an asset in his side.

With the likes of Rashford and Sancho enduring a sustained lull in form and Martial’s time at United potentially becoming toxic, Elanga has the chance to extend his run in the team.

Every time United’s number 36 was in possession he drove at Cash and his first thought was always how he can help his get forward.

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Only Mason Greenwood (5) had more shots on goal than Elanga (4) during last night’s clash, which highlights the self-belief he possesses in his own qualities.

Elanga was replaced by Sancho in the closing stages, but the England international didn’t seem to have the same appetite and desire that Elanga had shown in his performance.

After being patched up on the substitutes bench after taking a few heavy knocks, Elanga will be targeting further game time in Wednesday’s trip to Brentford.

Photo by James Gill – Danehouse/Getty Images

Elanga has already scored against Thomas Frank’s side this season after he netted in a pre-season friendly.

Rangnick would be sending the wrong message if Elanga was dropped for a returning Rashford or Sancho.

Elanga deserves to start for the Bees and earn back-to-back Premier League starts for the first time in his career.

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Passionate Football fan that completed a NCTJ-accredited Diploma in Multimedia Sports Journalism in 2016.