24 year-old former Blackburn defender Phil Jones told MUTV that Netherlands Under-21 international Timothy Fosu-Mensah is “improving all the time” and that he will be “a good player for the club”.
This praise will be welcoming news for the youngster who has struggled to continue from last season’s breakthrough campaign after performing admirably at a number of positions including full-back and midfield. Timothy Fosu-Mensah, who signed a new long-term contract at Old Trafford shortly after Jose Mourinho joined the club, appears to be seen as a defensive midfielder from the manager’s perspective, which could benefit his game after finding himself struggling to hold down a regular position since joining the club from Ajax in 2014.
Two-years ago, after appearing for the youth side against Salford City, the now Wigan Athletic manager Warren Joyce explained that it would be important to find the youngsters best role in order to aid his development for the first team.
“He could stay there (central-defence) as he’s played there and in holding midfield for his country, the Netherlands, but you have to look at his strengths and what else he can offer the team. We’ve got to hone his strengths as well, so he ultimately he can be selected for the first team," Joyce said.
Since then, Fosu-Mensah has gone on to make 16 first-team appearances since his debut, coming on at left-back in a 3-2 win over Arsenal in February 2016. Primarily playing as a full-back under Louis van Gaal, the Dutchman went on to feature in seven of the last 11 fixtures of that season playing at both full-back and centre-back. Since then, the playing time of the academy graduate has decreased with the 19-year-old only completing 161 minutes of first team football this season.
What are the youngster’s main assets?
Team mate and England international Phil Jones hailed the teenagers “quick feet” as well as being able to pass with “both left and right feet”. These assets seem to be more suitable for a midfielder rather than a defender. However, listed as a “powerful and versatile defender with plenty of speed and athleticism as well as natural ability on the ball” on the club's official website, it is clear to see that the young man is highly rated in and around the club.
Why hasn’t he featured as much this season?
Increased competition and lack of injuries
Injuries last season led to academy players Joe Riley, Guillermo Varela, Marcus Rashford and Timothy Fosu-Mensah all receiving call-ups two latter players have arguably benefitted most from this. However, Manchester United have had a relatively injury free season which has depleted the playing times of both of the Red Devils rising stars. Mourinho’s attempt to tie the Dutchman down to a singular position has also contributed to the lack of playing time with fellow midfielders Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba performing excellently, diminishing the hopes of a call up for the youngster. Compare this to last season, Manchester United were heavily depleted in a number of positions due to injury’s which allowed Warren Joyce’s academy men to be promoted to the first team.
The Dutchman is obviously talented and highly thought of by manager Jose Mourinho and it seems to be a matter of when and not if the youngster will make his breakthrough into the first eleven.