Bruno Fernandes has urged Manchester United’s emerging stars to seize their moment as they seek to make an impression at Old Trafford.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer confirmed ahead of Sunday’s trip to West Brom that teenage trio Shola Shoretire, Hannibal Mejbr and Amad Diallo would all be involved with the senior side.
Fernandes has been a leading light for United this season, helping to propel the Red Devils into possible Premier League title contention.
The Portuguese playmaker hopes the injection of youth into the United first-team fold will provide a boost, though he urged those making the step up to work hard and stay humble.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) February 12, 2021
“They have to keep their heads clean, because it’s easy to come in to the first team and your head goes a little bit, and it’s also hard when you have to go back and train and play with the other teams again,” he told the club’s official website.
“I was in that position some years ago and I know it’s hard, but if you work and are humble and you understand that every time you play is a chance, no matter where you are playing, every time is a chance to show you are ready or that you want to make that next step.
“For us as a team, it’s important that when they come [to train with us] that they come to help us and learn from everyone and also give the qualities they have to the team.
“If they come to the first team it’s because they have something good and that is something that can help us.”
We took a closer look at two of United’s most promising prospects, in Mejbri and Shoretire.
HANNIBAL MEJBRI, 18 – ATTACKING MIDFIELDER
Many will have had an eye on Mejbri’s development ever since he joined the club from Monaco in August 2019 in a deal that could potentially cost €10million (£8.75m).
A France youth international, Mejbri quickly progressed to United’s Under-23s last term despite only being 17 and has become a regular.
A technically gifted attack-minded midfielder, Mejbri has impressed not only with his ability on the ball, but his knack of crafting opportunities for team-mates.
In Premier League 2 Division One, his 42 chances created in 13 games is more than any other player, while his six assists is a joint-best for the league.
He has combined his creativity and comfort in possession to good effect as well, as evidenced by the fact seven of his carries (a movement of more than five metres with the ball) have led to chances created, a figured bettered by only five.
Mejbri has also attempted 49 dribbles, the fourth-most in the division, and won a remarkable 94 fouls – almost three times as many as anyone else – two of which secured penalties in the recent 6-3 win over Liverpool’s Under-23s.
In fact, Wood recently urged referees to do more to protect him from such rough treatment, concerned Mejbri will suffer a serious injury if it continues.
He can expect similar attention if he does get minutes in the top flight, though Wood is adamant Mejbri does not let it get to him, saying: “I think he’s the type that he wants the ball all the time, he’s not going to shy away from it and that’s what we want, you don’t want your top players being worried, he just needs a bit of protection or it could result in him being badly injured.”
It was goals galore in yesterday’s #MUAcademy U23s game against Liverpool
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) January 31, 2021
SHOLA SHORETIRE, 17 – FORWARD
Shoretire joined the United academy in 2014 having previously played for Newcastle United, and for several years now he has looked like one of the next high-potential kids to come off the Old Trafford production line.
He made his debut for the club’s Under-18s in 2018, in doing so becoming the youngest player to ever feature in UEFA’s Youth League at 14 years and 314 days.
Shoretire – whose name is pronounced ‘Shor-ay-ti-reh’ – is most-often used as a winger (on either flank) for the Under-23s, but given his excellent dribbling, vision and finishing abilities, he could potentially have a future as a more central striker.
He signed his first professional contract on Monday, just three days after netting a hat-trick against Blackburn Rovers’ Under-23s.
That took him to five goals in 13 appearances this term, while he also has four assists from 22 chances created.
Where he comes out particularly well is with regards to goal-ending passing sequences, of which he has been involved in 13 – only Mejbri (14) has a better record here.
Like Mejbri, Shoretire also has a penchant for taking the game to his opponents, as showcased by the fact he has created eight chances at the end of ball carries, the fifth-most in the league.
Given United’s packed schedule over the next few weeks, with their European campaign set to resume, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see these two make their first-team bows.
Even if they don’t this season, it is surely only a matter of time.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) February 5, 2021