Tahith Chong, a name Manchester United fans may not have heard of a few months ago, is suddenly the man, or boy, many fans want to be the next youth player given a run out for the first team. With Huddersfield up next in the cup, is it the perfect time for Chong to be given his chance?
For someone so young – Chong only turned 18 in December – Tahith Chong is already making up for lost time. A serious knee injury kept him out for most of 2017 so it’s credit to him and his talent that we’re only two months in to 2018 and he’s already banging on the door of the first team.
Fast, skillful and a competent finisher, Chong has the look of accomplished United wingers from years gone by. Ryan Giggs is an obvious comparison and Chong does possess that ability to glide along with the ball at speed and beat a man. But for anyone who’s seen Chong and old clips of George Best in his younger days there’s definitely a resemblance in the way Chong keeps the ball close, can ride a tackle, and never looks in any trouble despite the number of players around him.
Of course comparing an 18 year old youth player to one of the world’s “Best” ever players is at this stage fanciful. Chong’s first challenge is to force his way in to Jose Mourinho’s plans before he can even begin to think about how good he can be.
So how close to a first team call up is Chong and is he likely to be involved against Huddersfield?
In answer to the first question, he should be very close. He’s recently featured and performed well for the U23’s, which is effectively the reserves, and with Mourinho monitoring those performances a first team call up should be imminent. However, I’d be very surprised if Mourinho calls him up any time soon. Mourinho isn’t Sir Alex Ferguson. If he was then Chong would be involved against Huddersfield. Sir Alex was never shy in promoting youth, especially young talented flair players, and Chong fits that particular statement like a glove.
Mourinho is different though. His record with bringing through youth, despite his protestations, isn’t good. He’s also already stated that he wants to bring through one youth player a season and this season it’s McTominay. Others have been given a few minutes here and there but Mourinho doesn’t appear to be the sort of manager that would consider Chong’s involvement any time in the next month or so a priority.
The more realistic hope for Chong is that the first team find some sort of consistent form between now and April and tie up Champions League football so that Mourinho has the option of blooding some youth in the remaining dead rubber league games. But with the way United are playing at the moment it could be be that every game counts between now and the end of the season. Which is likely to mean no debut for Chong any time soon.