|Image from the Full Time Devils|
Timothy Fosu-Mensah was a player who broke into the first team with such potential when he made his debut as a substitute against Arsenal in February 2016. Anyone who kept clued in with the United youth teams would have known about him. He always stood out when playing for the youth teams. He was tall, built like a house, brave in a tackle and was hugely powerful.
When I first saw him playing for the Under 18’s, I genuinely believed we could have had our own Yaya Toure coming through. However, he lacks something that Toure had in abundance as he is very average technically. I hadn’t noticed this until he began to play some minutes for the first team. For this reason, I was happy when United decided to send him out on loan to Crystal Palace as I believed a season playing every week there would do him good. I thought he’d improve technically and come back a more mature, all rounded footballer. However, his loan spell at Palace was a disaster. He spent most of his time injured and when he did play he was a shadow of the powerhouse I had seen play for the reserve teams. He showed glimpses of his ability here and there during his spell at Selhurst Park and his performance against Manchester City in a 0-0 draw was outstanding and culminated in Leroy Sane stating that he was the best full back he had ever come up against. From then on, his loan spell seemed to go into a downward spiral with injuries taking their toll and poor performances leading him to becoming Roy Hodgson’s third choice right full behind Joel Ward and the emerging Aaron Wan Bissaka. In the final three months of that season, he played in just one Premier League match.
After his failed loan spell at Palace, it was of no surprise to me when United decided to send him out on loan again. This time it was to another London club, Fulham. Like his time at Palace, his loan at Fulham was underwhelming with injuries yet again scuppering his progress. The fact that Fulham had three different managers last season probably didn’t help him. With a combination of this and injuries, he was limited to just eleven appearances in his time at Craven Cottage.
After his failed spell at Fulham, I really believed his days at United were numbered so I was surprised when United decided to trigger a term in his contract allowing it to be extended for a year. Whether this is because Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sees a future for him at United or because it gives United a longer period to try and get a fee for him remains to be seen, but his immediate future lies at Old Trafford. Personally, I don’t see much of a future for him at United beyond the next year. He has many brilliant physical attributes but if your not particularly good with a ball at your feet, all those attributes count for nothing. I hope he can prove me wrong because there is nothing I like seeing more than a youth prospect make it in the first team but after his failed loan spells I just don’t see it happening.
Cameron Borthwick-Jackson’s emergence into the first team was the complete opposite of Fosu- Mensah’s. As someone who keeps an eye on the youth sides at United, I was very surprised when I saw his name on the substitutes bench for United against West Brom in November 2016, mainly because I had never heard of him and didn’t recognise him when he came on. He seemed to just appear on the scene at United out of nowhere.
Initially, he did very well for United. It was clear Louis Van Gaal rated him highly. Unlike Fosu-Mensah, he was very good technically but lacked Timothy’s physical attributes. He had a brilliant delivery, was sound defensively and never seemed phased or overwhelmed in United’s first team. He probably lacked a yard of pace for a full back and he needed to fill out physically but there was potential there. However, as time progressed and manager’s changed, he gradually began to be phased out of the United set-up.
This led to disappointing loan spells at Wolves, Leeds, Scunthorpe United and Tranmere Rovers. His struggle for form can be seen in the fact he made just five appearances for Tranmere in a loan spell that was cut short by the club. We saw first hand just how poor that Tranmere side was when we played them in the FA Cup earlier this season, so if he can’t get into that team, what chance does he have of any sort of future at United? The answer to that is simple, he doesn’t have a future at United.
I would be gobsmacked if United decided to renew his contract when it runs out. Since his first loan spell away from United at Wolves, he has gradually worked his way down the English football pyramid with his latest move being to League Two, Oldham Athletic. Unless he can turn into Roberto Carlos overnight, I would be very surprised if he had any sort of future at United, especially with Luke Shaw beginning to rediscover his form and the emergence of Brandon Williams this season. I have no doubt that he can make a good career for himself in the game but I would be very surprised if that career is at United.