Manchester United’s money-spinning summer tour to Canada, United States and Mexico will offer the squad’s younger players a shot at first team action. With injuries still afflicting the squad and World Cup players given an extended rest half a dozen kids could play against Celtic. It’s an opportunity some won’t get again outside the Carling Cup.
Indeed, many of the players in Sir Alex Ferguson’s squad that plays Celtic in Toronto on Friday, followed by matches against Philadelphia Union, Kansas City Wizards an MLS all-star XI and Chivas Guadalajara, have featured in fewer than 10 games for the first team. Or none at all in the case of Chris Smalling, Tom Cleverley, Ben Amos and Corry Evans.
New signing Smalling, acquired for more than £10 million, has played less than 20 Premier League games for Fulham and will begin the season as fourth choice centre-back behind Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Jonny Evans. However, with Ferdinand injured and Vidic on an extended break, the England Under-21 international could feature in both the Community Shield and United’s opening Premier League fixture against Newcastle United at Old Trafford. It’s a tough ask for the 20-year-old former Maidstone United player, whose form dipped dramatically in the second half of last season.
With last season’s disappointments behind him the 18-year-old Italian faces even greater challenges in the coming campaign. The Italian featured in just x games for United in 2009/10, with persistent groin injuries and doubts over his attitude holding the striker back. Now Macheda faces more competition from Hernández as one of seven strikers in United’s first team squad fighting for one place in the team.
The local lad joins the North American tour but may head out on loan in the coming season. Injuries, including a knee problem that ended the Salford-born striker’s campaign last time out, have stalled the 19-year-old’s career since Ferguson tipped the striker to make England’s World Cup squad. Probably seventh in line for a starting berth in United’s strikeforce so will need to impress in the US.
The Mexican’s bright showing at the World Cup has already increase expectation levels to fever pitch following goals against France and Argentina. However, the 21-year-old striker will surely need a substantial settling in period – remember Diego Forlán – before having a serious impact in the Premier League. The slower pace of pre-season in the US should help the former Chivas Guadalajara striker acclimatise to the United way when he joins the group on 27 July.
Mame Biram Diouf
The Senegalese’s goal against Burnley and then a hat-trick at reserve level were a false dawn for the £3.5 million signing from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s former club Molde. The striker is quick, physical and has a great leap for a smaller player – there’s plenty to work with, although a loan move is likely unless United cuts down the number of forwards at the club. Has a chance to impress pre-season and force his way into Ferguson’s first team thinking. Must keep himself fit to stand a chance though.
The attacking midfielder’s outstanding season with Watford in the Championship was cut short by a knee injury but speedy recovery has ensured a place on the pre-season tour. Talk of a loan move to Newcastle United or Blackpool is now on hold, with Owen Hargreaves’ comeback in grave doubt. Cleverley is hardly a like-for-like replacement but could offer Ferguson additional attacking options if he is not sent out on loan. Yet to make his first team début for United.
Ritchie De Laet
The Belgian impressed this time last year before being pressed into emergency duties during United’s defensive crisis last winter. An excellent performance against Wolverhampton Wanderers was then followed by a disaster away at Fulham that exposed the youngster’s inexperience at the highest level. Will want to impress with Gary Neville and Patrice Evra missing from the tour but is still likely to see action only in the Carling Cup during the coming season.
There are very high hopes for Jonny’s younger brother who performs best in a midfield role. Excellent performance’s for Solskjaer’s second string earned a call to the first team bench in the last weeks of United’s failed Premier League run-in but is yet to make his full début. Composed on the ball and strong in the tackle, Evans has improved remarkably over the past 18 months. A loan move to Nottingham Forest has been mooted.
Fabio da Silva
Rafael’s younger brother has suffered terrible luck with injuries since signing a full professional contract with the club almost 18 months ago. Long thought more talented that his brother, fitness and Evra’s form will dictate how much exposure Fabio will get to first team duties this season. With the Frenchman still on holiday Fabio should get a good run in the side during the summer tour – if he can stay fit that is. Talk of a loan move to Sporting Lisbon has not recently been resurrected.
The English Under-20 international will serve as the first team’s third choice goalkeeper after the sale of Ben Foster to Birmingham City this summer. The Macclesfield-born 20-year-old spent the second half of last season on loan to Norwegian club Molde, appearing eight times in the Eliteserien before returning to Old Trafford this summer. Is likely to spend much of the season in the reserves with an outside chance of a Carling Cup appearance in the autumn.
The Frenchman joined United for £3 million from Bordeaux last summer, but a mystery back complain kept the Under-21 international on the sidelines until October. An outstanding jinking run to set-up Michael Owen against Wolfsburg in the Champions League followed a bright performance against Barnsley in the Carling Cup last season. Strong pre-season performances could bring the French winger into the first team squad, with Park Ji-Sung enjoying a long summer break, Nani only just returning from injury and Antonio Valencia still on the sidelines.