Manchester United‘s travelled to the USA for their pre-season preparations this summer and several members of José Mourinho’s squad were hoping to impress.
For established stars like Paul Pogba, David de Gea and Herikh Mkhitaryan, the five fixtures in the United States, as well as the subsequent games against Valerenga and Sampdoria, were merely tune-ups ahead of the new season, while new boys Romelu Lukaku and Victor Lindelöf used them as a chance to integrate into their new team.
But for the handful of young hopefuls who were part of the travelling squad, the pre-season schedule represented a form of audition. To those who are either returning from loan or hoping to earn promotion from the under-21 side, these last few weeks have offered a chance to show Mourinho they are ready to make the step up to a regular senior role at Old Trafford.
We’ve highlighted the youngsters who’ve been on display for the Red Devils in pre-season, assessing their performances and chances of being involved in 2017/18.
Belgium-born Brazil Under-20 international Pereira spent last season on loan in La Liga with Granada. And, although the Spanish side ultimately limped to relegation, the young midfielder impressed on an individual level.
Those who have seen him at length hold high hopes for Pereira’s Old Trafford future, feeling that the versatile playmaker has what it takes to succeed at United.
Comfortable on either flank, as a central midfielder or in his customary role as a No.10, the 21-year-old added a new wrinkle to his game this summer by excelling when deployed by Mourinho at the base of midfield as a deep-lying playmaker.
Appearing in all seven of the Red Devils’ pre-season fixtures, Pereira did more than enough to earn himself a place in the first team next season. He is not quite ready for regular starting berth as yet, but a rotational squad role is the logical next step for the gifted Brazilian.
Another player who appears to have worked his way into Mourinho’s thinking for the new season is towing Lancaster-born midfielder McTominay.
The 6ft 4ins youngster made two senior appearances during the final embers of 2016/17 and didn’t look out of place, exhibiting a fine passing range and a mature understanding of positioning.
Although he was only utilised three times in pre-season, when called upon McTominay again looked a natural fit. Reports now suggest that the manager is ready to put more faith in his this season.
It remains to be seen whether the 20-year-old quite has the requisite level of ability to forge a long-term career at United, but we might be about to find out.
Recalled early from a loan spell in his native Portugal with Belenenses last season, Joel Pereira, no relation to Andreas, made two senior appearances for United last term.
The tall, physically imposing goalkeeper is regarded as being among the most talented players in his position for his current age group, and Mourinho has several times proclaimed Pereira the future No.1 of the Portuguese national team.
With Sam Johnstone loaned out to Aston Villa once against this season, Pereira is set to be the Red Devils’ third-choice man between the sticks, behind David de Gea and Sergio Romero, with a handful of appearance to be expected in the early rounds of the domestic cup competitions.
So gifted is the Swiss-born Portuguese that, should de Gea ever make his mooted return to Spain, United might not need to dip into the transfer market for a new keeper.
Though rarely stretched in his four pre-season outings, Pereira showed poise and presence: two qualities vital to any top-level goalkeeper.
Much like Pereira, Tuanzebe’s name was one which became much more familiar towards the tail end of last season, stepping in when an injury crisis depleted Mourinho’s defensive options.
Whether in his natural centre-back role, at full-back on either side or even as a defensive midfielder, the 19-year-old, who was born in DR Congo before moving to Rochdale at a young age, earned widespread acclaim.
With five pre-season appearances under his belt this summer, most of which at full-back or wing-back, he demonstrated his supreme athleticism and a good level of technical quality.
Tuanzebe’s versatility and ability to follow his manager’s instructions to the letter will have won Mourinho over and he can full expected to be involved, albeit as a fringe player, this season.
Converted from a forward into a flying left-back, Mitchell was one of the unheralded youngsters thrown into the Premier League fray against Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on the final day of last season.
His pace, skill and tenacity caught the eye as he was one of the better performers at Old Trafford that day.
Utilised sparingly in pre-season, with just three substitute appearances, it seems unlikely that Mitchell will be a future of the first-team squad just yet, but that’s no indictment of his potential.
Plus, with Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo both out injured, Mourinho doesn’t have a wealth of options at left-back; one or two more injuries or suspensions could see 20-year-old Mitchell quickly reintroduced.
Netherlands Under-21 international Fosu-Mensah is already a fan favourite at Old Trafford. Since making his debut under Louis van Gaal, the versatile teenager’s all-action, committed displays have left many hoping and believing that he is a United regular in the making.
A defensive midfielder and occasional centre-back at youth level, his first-team outings to date have come as a right-back, bursting forward at speed to join the attack and using his impressive physicality to bully much more experienced players in defence.
His five pre-season appearances have been much of the same. But talk of an imminent move for Paris Saint-Germain full-back Serge Aurier, who is also a Tottenham Hotspur transfer target, could be a worry for Fosu-Mensah.
Now rumoured to be on Watford‘s radar, there is a growing possibility that he could be sent out on loan to gain first-team experience this season.
The Dutchman needs game time in order to progress and, as it stands, it is unlikely he will get that on a regular basis at Old Trafford in 2017/18. A loan might be best for all involved.