There have been several Manchester United youngsters thrown into the breach by Louis van Gaal in recent weeks – mostly in defensive areas – with Paddy McNair, Tyler Blackett and Tom Thorpe used as cover in place of their more illustrious counterparts.
Meanwhile, United’s attack has seen several changes since van Gaal’s arrival with the summer departures of Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck to Real Madrid and Arsenal respectively. Radamel Falcao joined from Monaco in a high profile loan deal, but United still look short in numbers in the striking role: Enter James Wilson.
The 18-year old striker shot to prominence with a two-goal haul on his Premier League debut against Hull City at the back end of last season, and is tipped in some areas to bypass the England under-21 squad and join up with Roy Hodgson’s side in the near future.
But what is the best course of action for this promising young English talent? Perhaps a loan deal to gain more regular first team minutes? Could United even be tempted to sell on their young asset, or can the emerging Wilson show his Dutch boss that he deserves more regular game-time after some fleeting appearances in a United shirt this season. Here we will discuss these points in more detail.
Every football fan worthy of the name knows that Manchester United are going through a transitional period. A seventh-place league finish last season meant that the club missed out on the extra games that European football brings, and with such a large squad at Old Trafford, it must be a challenge for van Gaal to keep all of his men happy with minutes on the pitch.
Loan deals could well be on the horizon for a few of the fringe players at United and Wilson may fall into that bracket. The teenager has an excellent scoring record for United at under-21 level – but it is a huge step up to perform in front of 75,000 fans regularly at such a tender age. Some regular football at a lower echelon Premier League, or promotion-seeking Championship side until the end of the season may see the centre forward flourish into the fine striking sensation that many have tipped him to be.
Of the three options that United have with James Wilson, a transfer away from Old Trafford seems to be the most unlikely option. However, it must always be said that every player has a price-tag and many eyebrows were raised when United youth product and England international, Danny Welbeck left Manchester for London on deadline day back in August – which proves it can happen.
It is also hard to imagine that Wilson would attempt to engineer a move away from Old Trafford due to his solid roots within the club from a tender age. United have a proven track record at employing from within, and the player is likely to be a part of van Gaal’s regime for the foreseeable future at least.
James Wilson has made four Premier League appearances this season in a United shirt – which have equated to just 67 substitute minutes. Louis van Gaal has seen fit to unleash the young striker on the likes of Everton, Chelsea and Manchester City – which underlines the faith that the Dutchman has in his fledgling star. The striker has failed to make much of an impact during those short spells on the pitch, but with his searing pace and deadly finishing, it may only be a matter of time before the United faithful are chanting his name with more regularity.
James Wilson has all the required tools to be a fine centre forward for the Red Devils, he just needs the opportunities to perform on a more regular basis – and when the goals begin to arrive, it may just be the likes of Robin van Persie or Falcao who are warming the bench.