Manchester United Youth Rankings 2016 #1- Timothy Fosu-Mensah

This is the tenth and last post in this series,where reddit users /u/monsieurryan and/u/rdzzl have rated the ten best players playing for Manchester United’s youth teams.
The Previous posts are as below.

Coming in at number one was a player who was not on the list last year. A year ago his talent was already evident. But myself and /u/rdzzl decided not to include solely because he was only 6 months into his Manchester United career at that point in time. Now that he has had 18 months at Manchester United he has clearly cemented his place at the top of our youth prospects. Able to play at right back, centre back, central midfield, and attacking midfield Timothy is capable of playing virtually anywhere. This is probably down to the fact that the way the Dutch teach the young players is very different from most other countries where they are able to play in various different numbers (eg. #4, #6, #10, etc). So even before coming to us from Ajax, Fosu-Mensah was already technically ahead of many of his peers. His best positions would be central defender and central midfielder. Although I prefer the latter for him as he isn’t as reliable as a defender as he should be. And it seems that the coaches are grooming him in the midfield role when they are able to. As a midfielder he good passing range (accuracy varies form time to time), he is a great tackler, and he has a tenacity about him that midfielders are allowed to have over their defensive counterparts. As a midfielder you can be a little rash and make a mistake from time to time but as a defender you have to be more cautious and calculated in what you do. For these reason I believe that Fosu-Mensah’s future lies in the midfield, potentially as a holding midfielder. Still only 17 years old his future is looking bright. Expect to see him in the first team sooner rather than later. /u/monsieurryan

I think it is worth mentioning that one of the main reasons I prefer him in midfield, is that I find both Williams and Tuanzebe to currently be better central defenders than Fosu-Mensah. That said, it does not mean he is less of a talent there. I do however agree with /u/monsieurryan when he says that Timothy looks most exciting in midfield. He is a huge presence on the pitch by his sheer physique, as he sprints around winning challenges and presses opponents into less dangerous areas. His way of doing this reminds me of ex-youth player Charni Ekangamene, just that Timothy is clearly better and at a younger age at that. Looking at players that are familiar from the Premier League, I see him similar to someone like Ramires or Kanté. Mind you, this is more of a style comparison than talent or ceiling projection. Perhaps the in-form Kanté of this year’s Leicester is fitting for how I would like to see Fosu-Mensah deployed. It would be silly not to utilise his impressive physique. And while we’ve seen players go the path through right back (Sergio Ramos, more recently Kurt Zouma) to centre back with impressive physique and ball playing skills, I think the midfield is where these players are best utilised. Not only does it offer more possibilities for developing the forward aspect of the player’s game, but it also lets him be a more active part of the play when we do not have the ball.

Short term, however, I would not mind seeing him given a stint at right back for the first team. Maybe as early as in the cup this year, or through the pre-season and in to next year. What I am certain about, is that he needs to be playing sooner rather than later. Looking at his fellow Ajax graduate, Richedly Bazoer, it is evident the best players from this year of the academy is capable of. I had the pleasure of watching Bazoer live a few weeks ago, and while he is no doubt way better on the ball than Fosu-Mensah, they show striking similarly in how they cover ground and the attitude on the pitch. Play time has seen Bazoer make enormous leaps from “big talent” to “world class talent wanted by a plethora of top clubs” within a year. Fosu-Mensah needs the arena to do so. In many ways, I feel a bit sad for him that he left for us. As commonly discussed in these series, it worries me that our club is struggling. It seems like the door is half-closed for many of the talents that otherwise could have been given minutes on the pitch or at least a spot on the bench. Now, I am not saying the youngsters haven’t been given minutes under Van Gaal, because they obviously have. But these are youngsters that have had a chance to prove themselves for him. McNair and Blackett were both largely impressive during the pre-season when LvG arrived, and were given minutes throughout the season. Lingard has been rated for a long time, and was also good in the same pre season. Injuries stopped him from getting minutes the same season. Borthwick-Jackson has in many ways been very lucky with the amount of injuries we have had, and has really taken his chance. However, someone like Smalling or Blind simply can not be rested for a game against Bournemouth or whatever bottom half team you want to use as an example, as we look like we might lose at any point. This means that a player like Tuanzebe, Fosu-Mensah, Williams etc… They can not get the minutes we so often saw Sir Alex give to our young players. And I fear this might be the case for some more time. If it turns out like this, what happens with Fosu-Mensah? Without the chance, and the minutes, how is he going to have a development like Kurt Zouma, John Stones, or Richedly Bazoer has during the last year or two? The absolute best talents needs to be thrown in to the pool, no protection, to see if they can swim. If they don’t, at least that is identified. Then we can send them to swimming classes at the Championship or bottom half Premier League clubs, bring them back, and throw them out in it again. End of rant.

Timothy Fosu-Mensah’s qualities are many. I more or less agree with the description of co-writer/u/monsieurryan where strengths and weaknesses are identified. In all honesty, I was a bit surprised when I saw how hyped people were about his on-the-ball skills in the beginning, as I didn’t see them anywhere. He would try many passes, and a lot of those would end up anywhere from out of the pitch, at an opponent, or hit a team mate with a perfect run. His consistency at this is an area in which he should take notes from his mate Richedly, or closely study the best dynamic midfielders in the world in order to incorporate the accuracy and consistency in passing. He seems to be able to find spaces (visually) without always being able to utilise them. Now, this is also naturally something that a player can get better at with time, and he is still very young. But it is important that this aspect of his game is rigorously worked on for the next months or years. This is what separates the Djemba-Djemba from the Kanté, or the Wilshere from the Carrick. You know what I am getting at. The ball playing skill makes for more options in terms of versatility on the pitch for the player itself, but also for when the manager sets out to pick the team. He is probably already good enough to see out some minutes to close down games we are 2-0 or 3-0 up in, as a defensively minded midfielder. Yet, I wouldn’t trust him to make the right choices in an accurate manner at 1-0 home against Arsenal. Hopefully that’s where we’ll see him go from here.

Read More

A look at Chris Wilder’s tactics at Sheffield United

It is perhaps no coincidence that the two in-form English managers were honing their craft in the Championship a year before, they now sit...

The Forgotten story of the Basque in South America

This article is sourced from a string of Twitter posts by Impedimento, translated by the author. Exactly 80 years ago, a French steamer called SS...

Manchester United’s biggest transfer mistake of last summer

Manchester United's disastrous run under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer starting after their famous victory in Paris can be explained due to a multitude of factors....

The tactical flexibility of Ralph Hasenhuttl’s Southampton:

  Hasenhuttl has certain areas of the first team’s play that he wants to improve before the Premier League kicks-off again in August. Having arrived...

Mason Mount: Chelsea’s Golden Boy

When Frank Lampard was appointed, Derby County fans everywhere collectively held their breath in the hope of whom his widely spoken about “contacts” might...

A look at Gian Piero Gasperini’s tactics at Atalanta

After almost 3 years with Gian Piero Gasperini at the helm of Atalanta, they finished 3rd in the Serie A this season, securing European...

How will Manchester City lineup in the 2019/20 season

Pep Guardiola will be looking to repeat on last year’s success and win the Premier League title for a third straight year. The Manchester...

Football Tactics for Beginners

The Perfect Defensive System # 1

In this new series called The Perfect Defensive System,we invite you the reader to contribute posts on what you think is the best defensive...

Why does English football not trust Zonal Marking?

After many years of threatening to clamp down on excessive grappling from set-pieces, this season has seen Premier League referees penalise holding and shirt-pulling...

Football Tactics for Beginners: Tactical Periodization

What is Tactical Periodization? Tactical Periodization is a coaching methodology which is used to train football players with respect to the tactical context of the...

The Death Of The Box-To-Box Midfielder.

In English football, some of the most celebrated players in recent history have been the dynamic box-to-box midfielders. Typified by Lampard and Gerrard in...

Football Tactics for Beginners:The 4-2-3-1 formation

The most widely used formation in international football at present is the 4-2-3-1 formation and most of the top clubs in Europe have been...

Football Tactics For Beginners: The 4-4-2 Formation

The classic 4-4-2 formation might have become obsolete in the modern game,but there remains a certain charm in this basic but effective formation When football...

Football Tactics for Beginners-Compactness

If you have the ball you must make the field as big as possible, and if you don’t have the ball you must make...

Best Football Tactics Books

We have compiled a list of the best football tactics books for the casual football fan. Football tactics has become an essential part of...

Football Tactics for Beginners- The False Winger

A relatively new one to the lexicon of the footballing world, the false winger is often associated with players that drift inside to make...