Manchester United expect big things from Teden Mengi.
The academy prospect has been fast-tracked into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first-team plans and earmarked for a big role in their future.
Mendi, 18, made his senior debut in the Europa League against LASK last season and has been on the bench for United’s last two Champions League games.
Solskjaer has previously labelled Mengi a “special talent” and compared him to Dutch defender Matthijs de Ligt, who led Ajax to the Champions League semi-finals before his move to Juventus.
"We always had that in the back of our minds that our academy will provide players and Teden has definitely impressed me. It’s different trusting defenders on the big stage, of course it is,” Solskjaer told BBC Radio 5 Live ahead of the new season.
"You’ve got to make sure he’s ready for it, you see examples of Ajax, who play in a different league, but Matthijs de Ligt… they made him captain when he was 18. You can see something special in them.
“Teden’s got something special in him. It’s about picking the right moment to give him a chance.”
It is clear from Solskjaer’s comments and Mengi’s promotion to the first-team squad ahead of the season that he sees a big future for him at the heart of his defence.
But Solskjaer and United received a reality check on Wednesday night that patience might be needed regarding the teenager and their plan may take some time to come to fruition.
Mengi has remained involved in youth team football to continue gaining experience and captained United’s Under-21s side against Morecambe on Wednesday night.
At the heart of the defence, Mengi had a torrid night as they were beaten 4-0 and finding themselves exploited by their more experienced opponents.
United still have frailties at the back, and whilst Mengi might one day be the answer, signs against Morecambe served as a reminder that the step up to senior football can be a tough one.
The teenager seemingly has a wise head on his shoulder, however, and outlined his desire to continue learning and bide his time when asked about his experiences earlier this year.
Mengi said: “It’s been really beneficial. Learning how they play alongside them and the difference of speed in the play, I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s a welcoming environment.
“They will come and speak to you and put their arm around you and say well done, that kind of thing. You learn so much from them by just training with them, it’s a big eye opener, it’s been brilliant.”
“For me I’m not looking too far ahead. Same old me, I’m just looking to work as hard as I can. You look at the next game and then the one after that.
“I’m not looking too far ahead in the future – if the opportunity comes, it comes. If it happens, it happens. It’s down to me to keep working hard and if that opportunity comes then I need to take it.”
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