There are vacancies to be filled in the Manchester United midfield next season and a surprise candidate could be emerging in academy graduate Shola Shoretire, who has started to thrive in a new role in the academy.
The 18-year-old has played four first-team games already for United, but they have come in attacking positions out wide, an area of the pitch he has played in during his development at the club.
But Shoretire has started the last two games for Neil Wood’s Under-23s in a central midfield position and he has thrived in both, starring in games against Leicester City and in Friday’s win over Chelsea at Old Trafford.
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In that fixture Shoretire started in central midfield in a 3-4-3, playing alongside Zidane Iqbal in what looked like a very progressive pairing. Shoretire managed to control the midfield, however, and as well linking well with the attack, he showcased his positional discipline in dropping deep to collect possession and drive his team forward.
“We played Shola in a deeper role at Leicester and I thought in the second half [in that game] he was outstanding, in the build-up, getting on the ball, and outstanding in the way he was playing forward passes, driving past players, driving the team,” Wood told the Manchester Evening News.
“I wanted to have another look at him there, he’s not played there a lot, it’s a challenge for him and I thought he did really well again. He was really disciplined in his positioning and showed some excellent bits that we know he has. “
Part of a youngster’s development in age-group football will often involve changes in position and Hannibal Mejbri went through a similar process last season with Wood’s team.
Shoretire has shown an aptitude for the midfield role, however, and it is an area where United will require reinforcements over the next couple of seasons, with Paul Pogba leaving this summer and Nemanja Matic out of contract in 2023.
Wood has been pleased with Shoretire’s adaptation and the youngster is set for more minutes in midfield between now and the end of the season, with the Under-23s in action at Old Trafford again on Friday, April 22, when they face Arsenal.
“I think what you see with all the players, with Hannibal we played him from the left, as a 10, we started to play him a bit deeper this season. Shola is the same, I don’t think there’s a position he hasn ”t played across midfield or attack,” Wood explained.
“With Shola, he’s still very young, he’s done a lot for a boy who is so young. He takes the challenge on, he’s got a great personality and character, he’s great for me to have in the team because I can give him a job and I know he’ll do it.
“We wanted to have a look at him again in this deeper role and I thought he did excellent again.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.