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Just who is Manchester United's most promising academy prospect?

Tuesday 3rd May 2016
Manchester United have an extremely rich history when it comes to nurturing and developing their own homegrown talents, and once again, you get the feeling something special is happening at the Theatre of Dreams.

The club can boast bringing through players like Sir Bobby Charlton, George Best and the Class of 1992, as well as several others over the last century.
After a somewhat stagnant period on Salford Quays, for all his criticisms, Louis van Gaal seems to be bringing those youngsters back to the fore, and it's an absolute privilege to witness what is developing at Old Trafford.

Whether that decision was one the Iron Tulip made single-handedly, or if it was forced due to a whole host of injuries decimating the first-team squad isn't all that important. What is important is the fact that these teenagers have come into the mix, and have had the confidence to displace players much their senior from the starting line-up and they deserve great credit for what they have done.

That begs the question, just who is Manchester United's most promising academy prospect? Have a look at some of the contenders here:

Marcus Rashford

At just eighteen years of age, Rashford burst onto the scene a couple of months ago with an outstanding brace against FC Midtjylland, which instantly earned him a place in the hearts of the United fans around the world.

The young man wasn't done there though, and he backed that up with a stunning pair of goals against Arsenal in the Premier League, which began to turn the heads of footballing fans all over the world.

Now a regular in the starting line-up over a couple of months, Rashford was given the nod to lead the line in his first Manchester derby, and he made an instant impact. Barely twenty minutes into the game, the Mancunian was given the ball and he drifted past Martin Demichelis with ease before cooly slotting the ball past Joe Hart. The game ended 1-0, and we haven't seen Demichelis on a football field since being tormented by Marcus Rashford that day.

Timothy Fosu-Mensah

The Dutchman is relatively new to the first-team, but he has taken to it like a duck to water. Having moved from Ajax to Manchester United in 2014, Timothy Fosu-Mensah has been turning heads ever since. After a couple of years with United's younger teams, Louis van Gaal deemed him ready for the big time, and what a breath of fresh air he has been.

Having played only nine times for the senior side, Fosu-Mensah has not put a foot wrong and has definitely played his way into the side already. He has the ability to play all across the back four, as well as being more than capable of doing a job in a holding midfielder role too – which will obviously excite his manager and Dutch compatriot Louis van Gaal.

Despite being a defender by trade, he loves to get forward and is a real threat when deployed in the full-back position. Perhaps his best role though is at the heart of the defence, and that's probably where he sees himself long-term.

His standout performance so far was definitely the FA Cup replay against West Ham United, in which he bailed out his defensive teammates several times due to his superb reading of the game coupled with an excellent burst of pace. The future is bright for this young man.

Cameron Borthwick-Jackson

The second Mancunian on this list is Cameron Borthwick-Jackson. His rise to the first-team fold really did come out of nowhere. Louis van Gaal threw him right in at the deep end and the 19-year old passed that test with flying colours.

He has played twelve times in all competitions this term and he looks right at home. Borthwick-Jackson does his defensive duties diligently, but perhaps the most exciting aspect about his game is the final ball into the box. I haven't seen someone with his accuracy and precision when delivering a ball into the middle in several years.

Injury ruled him out for a couple of months hence why he hasn't featured as frequently, but expect him to be involved heavily next campaign.

Jesse Lingard

Jesse Lingard is a bit of an odd one. At 23, he is somewhat of a late bloomer, despite Louis van Gaal having faith in him from the off, as many forget that Lingard was given a start in United's first competitive game under the Dutchman. However, the winger suffered a serious injury that day and wasn't seen for the rest of the season in a red shirt.

This year has been a different story however, and he has turned into a real favourite of United's much-maligned manager due to his versatility and excellent work rate.

Since the turn of the year, Lingard has been ever-present in the starting eleven, making 35 appearances in all competitions thus far. During that time he has scored some crucial goals, including that wonderful half-volley away at Stamford Bridge.

One area of Lingard's game that certainly needs work is his finishing. You feel that he could have double the amount of goals this season if he had the ability to remain calm under pressure.

The verdict

If I were put under pressure to choose one of these young lads, I'd probably have to go with Timothy Fosu-Mensah. He has the potential to turn into a world superstar. He has adapted to life at Manchester United wonderfully since his transition into the first-team, and he's already playing like an experienced defender who has been at Old Trafford for years.

There is so much more pressure on a young defender than there is on a forward. To give you an example, if a striker misses an excellent goal-scoring opportunity, that'll likely be forgotten about. However, if a defender makes an error that leads to an opposing goal, it tends to stick in the mind. That's why I've gone for Fosu-Mensah over Marcus Rashford, but they both the have potential to turn into some of the best players on the planet.
Jordan Street

Jordan Street, 25-year old sports writer. Avid Manchester United fan and season ticket holder. Lover of the Premier League. Enjoys American sports. Tom Brady's biggest admirer, Kyrie Irving for MVP.

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