It may or may not have slipped under your radar but, last night, United Under-21s thumped Norwich City 7-0. In an attacking performance which fans have been crying out for the senior side to produce, Andreas Pereira tucked away a penalty whilst young defender Tim Fosu-Mensah also found the back of the net. How about the other five? Well, they were all scored by Will Keane, taking his tally for the Under-21s this season to 10 since he was recalled from his loan spell at Preston North End in January. After an impressive run of form for the second team, is it time that the 23-year-old finally gets his chance in the first team?
Since making his debut for the club in late 2011, Keane has found himself shipped out on loan to no fewer than four different clubs in a bid to ready himself for the vigours of the first team. A short stint at Wigan Athletic was ended prematurely to injury before a six-month loan deal to Queens Park Rangers proved to be equally unsuccessful. Hillsborough was to be his next destination in early 2015, where he found the net on three occasions for Sheffield Wednesday before heading to Preston North End at the beginning of this campaign on a season-long loan deal. His time at Deepdale hardly proved to be prolific, finding the net on two occasions in 22 appearances for the club.
When it was announced that Keane was to have his loan spell at Preston cut short to provide extra cover to Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial in the wake of James Wilson’s loan move to Brighton, it smacked of desperation. In fact, with Adnan Januzaj returning to the club shortly afterwards, the conclusion that many reached was that manager Louis Van Gaal would not be trusted with any money during the January transfer window, a statement that has intensified since the closure of the window after United failed to sign a single player. However, Keane’s form for the Under-21s has done nothing but raise his stock and he could well find himself amongst the substitutes for this weekends game against Sunderland.
Whilst scoring five goals is impressive at any level, it was the nature of the goals which should not go unnoticed. His third goal, assisted by one Memphis Depay, was probably the neatest tap-in you are likely to see, whilst his fourth goal was nothing more than a thing of beauty, chipping the goalkeeper from the edge of the box after some sublime skill.
It is easy to get excited about a prospect from the Under-21s. The level of football down there is nothing compared to the Premier League, and his time away on loan has shown us nothing in terms of his progress. However, perhaps Keane is now willing to knock on the door and show LVG exactly what he has to offer. Keane cannot be judged on his loan spells. After all, one Harry Kane failed to pull up any trees during his temporary time away from Tottenham Hotspur, and it is probably fair to say that he is something of a success now…