Young trio make the most of first-team bow
Posted by nickogs20 on July 27, 2008
As United’s pre-season preparations clicked up a gear with their 4-0 victory over Kaizer Chiefs, the part the current crop of youngsters on tour played didn’t go unnoticed by those watching, not least their manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
“They are all at a good age in terms of us judging them and most have been out on loan,” Sir Alex told manutd.com. “Jonny Evans had a good spell at Sunderland and was instrumental in them staying up. Fraizer Campbell was instrumental in bringing Hull up. Lee Martin was unfortunate with injuries but he showed what he can do by setting up the first goal here. He has potential.”
Of particular interest in today’s game were the performances of the three young reserves who only arrived in South Africa on Thursday. “Craig Cathcart is looking much stronger after injury and the intention is to put him on loan this season. Possebon will stay as he has potential for first-team football while Cleverley is just a young lad and has time on his side. All the young players have good potential.” said the manager, who had good reason to feel pleased with the accounts the youngsters gave of themselves.
Craig Cathcart was probably the most impressive of the trio, playing the full ninety minutes alongside first Nemanja Vidic and then, briefly, compatriot Jonny Evans. The 19 year-old looked assured and made several timely interceptions as the Chiefs made a real game of it in the first half. The revelation that he will likely go out on loan is no surprise, but the declaration that Rodrigo Possebon ‘has potential for first-team football’ is somewhat. Rodrigo played just the first 45 minutes, the game slightly passing him by early on before the Brazilian midfielder came into things and showed some neat touches. He perhaps didn’t impose himself on proceedings as we have seen him do at reserve level, but nonetheless it was a promising debut.
His chances of first-team football are surely slim though. Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick, Owen Hargreaves, Darren Fletcher and Anderson all stand in his way, and that’s assuming Darron Gibson goes back out on loan. Carling Cup appearances and the odd inclusion on the 7-man first-team bench would seem to be the best Rodrigo can hope for, but you never know. The fact Sir Alex appears to consider him ready should be a big plus going into the new season.
Tom Cleverley is showing signs of having an uncanny knack of being able to make the very best of any opportunities he is given. His injury-plagued time in the U18’s could easily have seen him cut loose last summer but when granted a third scholarship year he took the chance with both hands, not only establishing himself as a reserve regular but taking to a ‘new’ midfield position so well that a year on he’s legitimately one of the reserves’ best players. That of course led to his call-up to South Africa this week and, when introduced at half-time for Rodrigo, he wasted no time in making the most of this particular opening, latching onto Wayne Rooney’s knockdown to get himself on the scoresheet.
“It’s been an unbelievable day and I’m pretty speechless,” Tom told MUTV. “I got the call on Tuesday to say I’d be coming out to South Africa so it’s all happened very quickly. I came on and did quite well and got a goal – I feel very proud”. While Ferguson’s comments seem to suggest another season in the reserves is likely for Cleverley, the impression he’s made on the manager and his impressive versatility could present him with more big opportunities over the coming season, and on past evidence only a fool would bet against him seizing them.
Of course that trio weren’t the only youngsters trying to make an impression on tour. Danny Simpson, Jonny Evans, Fraizer Campbell, Chris Eagles, Lee Martin and Darron Gibson were all part of the original party and have all seen plenty of match action on the trip so far. Simpson was particularly impressive against the Chiefs yesterday, looking solid in defence and dangerous going forward – he played a big part in Rooney and Cleverley’s goals. Campbell finally got the goal his efforts so far this pre-season have merited, and that should do his confidence the world of good. Martin also had a strong first half and provided the cross for Ryan Giggs’ opener.
With a long flight and another game to play today, all will expect to get more minutes on the pitch in what, for some, could be their last appearance in a United shirt before being loaned out or even sold. Tonight’s game with Portsmouth in the Nigerian capital of Abuja may appear little more than a fairly cynical money-making exercise but make no mistake, there is a lot at stake for a significant number of the touring squad.