Manchester United forgotten men eager to impress Erik ten Hag
A Uruguayan wonderkid, a Brazilian playmaker and a promotion winner who could fix the midfield… Man United’s loanees are eager to impress Erik ten Hag in pre-season – amid slow transfer window
- Manchester United jet off on pre-season trip to Asia and Australia next month
- New manager Erik ten Hag will get plenty of opportunity to work with players
- Those returning from loan spells or out of favour will get a chance to impress
- Facundo Pellistri, Andreas Pereira and Amad Diallo could provide a spark
- Midfielder James Garner has just won Premier League promotion with Forest
- Axel Tuanzebe and Teden Mengi could offer additional defensive options
Manchester United will travel almost 23,000 miles during a gruelling pre-season tour that will take Erik ten Hag and his new team to Bangkok, Melbourne, Perth and Oslo.
At some point during all this jet-setting, the incoming manager must figure out solutions to the myriad of problems that afflicted the team during a disastrous 2021-22 campaign.
Ten Hag is already hard at work behind the scenes, clearing out the deadwood and the out-of-contract, and identifying his transfer targets, though United have yet to get a deal over the line.
The work will begin in earnest for Erik ten Hag during Manchester United’s pre-season tour
But the pre-season fixtures will give Ten Hag the opportunity to run the rule over some of the forgotten men in the Old Trafford fold.
These are players who spent last season out on loan yet – with new management at United – will potentially get an opportunity to audition for a more prominent place in the squad for the season ahead.
United’s pre-season fixtures: July 12 vs Liverpool (Bangkok); July 15 vs Melbourne Victory (Melbourne); July 19 vs Crystal Palace (Melbourne); July 23 vs Aston Villa (Perth); July 30 vs Atletico Madrid (Oslo); July 31 vs Rayo Vallecano (Old Trafford)
It really is astonishing to think that Pereira played 40 times for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United side during the 2019-20 season.
Before the signing of Bruno Fernandes, the Brazilian was genuinely relied upon to provide the creativity despite being nowhere near the standards required.
Following spells on loan with Lazio in Italy and Flamengo in his native country, Pereira somehow finds himself back in Manchester ahead of the new season.
Flamengo had the option to make his loan permanent for £8.9million but after he made a costly mistake in their Copa Libertadores final defeat to Palmeiras in November, they have little desire to do so.
Andreas Pereira will be back in Manchester following a loan spell with Flamengo in Brazil
That’s despite their coach Dorival Junior saying he wanted to keep hold of the 26-year-old attacking midfielder. ‘Players of this level, players with this potential, are few in Brazil,’ he said.
Pereira scored a belting goal against Brentford in pre-season 12 months ago but you wouldn’t imagine there will be a great deal of enthusiasm among United fans to see him play out in the Far East or Australia.
Unfortunately, with United short on midfield options following the summer departures of Paul Pogba, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard, they may well have little choice but to give Pereira a run out.
Pereira celebrates scoring for Flamengo in the Copa Libertadores during his loan spell there
The Uruguayan was earmarked as a big hope for the future when United signed him from Penarol as an 18-year-old ahead of the 2020-21 campaign.
That could still materialise but Pellistri has still to play for United’s first-team in a competitive game despite a couple of encouraging displays in pre-season games this time last year.
He has twice been out on loan to Alaves in Spain but faded away and lost his place in their side last season. For a winger, a big fat zero in the goals and assists column doesn’t really bode well.
Facundo Pellistri on the ball during a friendly game at Queens Park Rangers last year
Yet during his half-a-dozen international appearances for Uruguay, Pellistri has really started to look the part.
With his speed and willingness to take on players, he could well be the type of footballer that Ten Hag favours in wide attacking areas. Only 20, there’s also plenty left to develop and the new manager could see a good project.
Pellistri also favours playing on the right flank, an area which has been a problem for United in recent times. Pellistri could compete with Anthony Elanga for the role, with Mason Greenwood’s future uncertain.
You’d imagine Pellistri will be afforded a fresh chance to impress the new manager at some point during the pre-season schedule and if he seizes it, he may spare himself yet another loan.
Pellistri on the ball for Uruguay during a recent international friendly against Mexico
Garner is increasingly becoming a household name off the back of an excellent season on loan at Nottingham Forest as they finally returned to the Premier League after a 23-year absence.
James Garner helped Nottingham Forest back into the Premier League during his loan there
Leicester City, Everton, Southampton and Leeds are all apparently interested, and Forest would surely have the holding midfielder back in a heartbeat, but Ten Hag will no doubt be eager to see what the 21-year-old academy graduate can do.
There is certainly a clamour among United fans to see Garner, an England under-21 international, given a fair chance to stake his claim.
His midfield passing was certainly reliable for Forest last season and he also demonstrated an attacking edge to his game with four goals and 10 assists in the Championship and FA Cup.
How much opportunity he actually would get at United will depend on who they bring in to address their troublesome defensive midfield position. It’s an issue that has persisted for about four years and three managers now.
It’s a stretch to say someone as young as Garner is ready to step in and save them a £100million outlay on a new signing but he definitely deserves a run of action on the tour.
Garner, 21, is a highly-rated academy graduate and is in demand from a number of clubs
The big-haired Dutchman endured a torrid season on loan at Birmingham City with a serious groin injury requiring surgery and keeping him sidelined from October until February.
A further hamstring issue then saw him miss a further chunk of Championship matches later in the campaign, restricting the 22-year-old winger to just 20 outings.
Chong has another year left on his United contract and has played 16 times for the club, mainly in the Europa League and FA Cup under Solskjaer in the 2019-20 campaign.
Tahith Chong in action for United during a Europa League fixture in the 2019-20 campaign
He’s been out on loan at Werder Bremen, Club Brugge and then Birmingham, with Old Trafford opportunities severely limited given United’s wealth of attacking players.
He may get one final opportunity to show compatriot Ten Hag what he can do during pre-season but the time has probably arrived to find another club, either permanently or on loan again.
Chong, 22, was sent out on loan to Birmingham last season but was affected by injuries
Another rising star whose signing in October 2021 alongside Pellistri embodied the Solskjaer-era policy of wanting to sign the world’s best young talents.
United could end up paying Atalanta as much as £35million for the Ivorian winger, just 19, and so you’d imagine the opportunities will start to arrive sooner or later.
The highlight of Diallo’s nine outings for United so far came when he scored against AC Milan in the Europa League the season before last.
Having not had the chance to kick on amid the chaos of last season, Diallo went out on loan to Rangers in January.
United could spend up to £35million on Amad Diallo but must decide what his role will be
He scored in the first five minutes of his debut against Ross County but most of his time at Ibrox was underwhelming and he didn’t get off the bench at all in their run to the Europa League final.
Diallo did end up winning the Scottish Cup, providing a confidence boost ahead of his return to Manchester this summer and he was named in the top 100 longlist for the World Golden Boy award.
If Pellistri is going to get a chance on tour, then surely Ten Hag will want to compare with Diallo in that right wing spot.
But if United go out and splash the cash for someone in that position, both could once again find themselves out on loan come August.
Diallo rounded off an inconsistent loan spell with Rangers by winning the Scottish Cup
It feels like a decisive summer in Tuanzebe’s career and Brighton are among the clubs linked with a defender who has been loaned out four times after emerging from United’s academy.
His current contract expires next year so if United wish to command a transfer fee for the 24-year-old, they’ll have to act now.
When Tuanzebe produced an excellent performance in United’s away Champions League win over Paris Saint-Germain in October 2020, it looked like he could well force his way into their back line.
Axel Tuanzebe helped keep Neymar and Paris Saint-Germain at bay during United’s 2020 win
Central defensive strength has not exactly been a byword in recent seasons but, for whatever reason, he just couldn’t dislodge Victor Lindelof to become Harry Maguire’s partner.
With United surely about to sign a new centre-back, he’ll be further knocked down the pecking order and a thin diet of Carabao Cup and Europa League outings isn’t enough at this stage of his career.
Tuanzebe was out at Napoli last season but struggled with back pain and ultimately made just two appearances after arriving in January.
Hopefully Tuanzebe can put these issues behind him and work out the next chapter in his career.
The defender suffered with back issues that restricted his game time on loan at Napoli
A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since Williams played 36 times for Solskjaer during 2019-20, essentially rotating with Luke Shaw for United’s left-back slot.
While Shaw went on to nail down the position, 21-year-old Williams faded into the background and was loaned out to Norwich during their latest doomed Premier League campaign.
It ended acrimoniously when Williams was allegedly abused by angry fans and followed in the wake of their feeble relegation.
Brandon Williams spent last season on loan at Norwich, who suffered relegation
There would surely be other clubs willing to take Williams for next season given United have Shaw and also Alex Telles on the left side of defence.
It’s not entirely certain Williams would offer Ten Hag anything different if he opted to set up with flying wing-backs.
At 21 and with a contract lasting until 2024, Williams may have to bide his time.
Given that Shaw ended last season on the sidelines after an operation to have two metal bolts removed that were installed following his double leg break in 2015, he may be reintroduced to action slowly.
And that could give Williams a chance to prove he should be considered the equal of Telles in Ten Hag’s thinking.
Williams became a regular for United at left-back under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in 2019-20
Centre-back Mengi was another who saw a loan affected by injury last season as he saw his time at Birmingham City restricted to only 10 outings.
The 20-year-old had previously made a couple of appearances for United when Solskjaer was in charge.
The academy graduate is strong and mobile, unlike some of United’s other defenders, and is likely to be given some minutes during the tour.
Because of his age and contract through until 2024, another loan spell is likely but that just puts the onus on Mengi to show his qualities.
Teden Mengi is another defensive option for United and will be hoping to get an audition
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