This GIF kind of sums up Joe Rothwell quite nicely. The finish is perhaps the best he’s ever shown at the U21 level, but the run and the passing is classic Joe Rothwell. He is a Manchester lad with a seemingly great attitude on and off the pitch. He’s been called up to the England U-squads from 16, and all the way to the England U-20s. I expect him to recieve a call-up for the U21s this spring, if he can find his form like last year.
As a player, he is the type that gets involved all over the pitch. Perhaps a bit too much for his own good. This is evident both when we do have the ball, and when we are chasing for it. Rothwell perfectly fits the definition of a box-to-box midfielder, and his main strength lies in how well-rounded his overall game is. Alongside Ben Pearson in particular, he has been part of what makes the Manchester United U21 midfield such a pain to play against. Constant pressure, hard tackling and physicality faces the opponents of the young red devils on the pitch.
This was, especially last season, a joy to watch. Manchester United played static, uninspiring football with the first team, but energized and intense football with the U21s. Rothwell was and is one of the key components of that team.
If you have been through his Man United profile , you will notice the amount of injuries he has had. This is, for me, one of the main reasons he is not one the top prospects from the United academy. Had he been able to progress without all the injuries, he could have been the name on everybody’s lips this year. That said, this goes for many youngsters at big clubs.
His technical ability is somewhat underrated, as he has decent ball control. He is faster than it seems, and he has an eye for the killer pass – usually into space, or to a player running into a channel. He is one of those players that you really notice when they are not playing. He also offers a massive release of pressure by always making runs, and offering passing options when United are in possession. Other qualities he’s got, is that while he is methodical and simple in his play style most of the time, he does have a bag of tricks that comes in handy in tight situations. He often heel-flicks it, or pulls out an unexpected skill move. As a player, I think I would compare him to a more offensive, young Darren Fletcher.
How far can he go? I am not sure. A lot depends on injuries. Seeing Michael Keane snapped up by Burnley , and comparing Michael Keane to a lot of the current youth prospects, I think we’ll see a handful or more of them end up at lower half Premier League sides or top half Championship sides in the next few years. If he keeps up the progress he has shown over the past year and a half, he could surprise us by knocking on the door for first team football next season.
His biggest two challenges is to become prominent at some aspect of his game, and to stay injury free. Be that creating chances, scoring, maintaining or winning the ball. He is good at all of them, but not yet prominent at any of them. In my opinion.When he is in form, and stays off injuries, he is one of United’s most important players at the youth level.