Profiling five youngsters who have joined Manchester United’s squad

by Tracey Germaine

Manchester United have released the squad numbers for the forthcoming 2014/15 season and of the squad, only two have recently been granted a number.

Reece James takes No.41 having worn it on the pre-season tour and midfielder Joe Rothwell will take No.46.

However, Rothwell isn’t the only youngster who wasn’t part of the pre-season tour but has been added to the squad.

Learn a bit more about the other four players who have joined Rothwell in the first-team.

#46 – Joe Rothwell

The classy midfielder has featured on Warren Joyce’s reserves pre-season tour with the Under-21s. Having been with the club since the age of six, Rothwell signed professional terms last summer after he recovered and fought his way back from a string of injuries which hampered his progress.

Last season, he played his way into Joyce’s Under-21 side and gave impressive performances in the Under-19s UEFA Youth League, including a goal against Real Sociedad.

Due to injury, he missed the final of the Under-21 Premier League and Joyce felt that the midfielder’s absence contributed to the defeat against Chelsea. An attack minded midfielder, he was called up to Noel Blake’s England Under-19 squad last November and performed well but his end of season injury meant he wasn’t in contention for the final squad for the summer’s European Championships.

#30 – Guillermo Varela

Varela joined last summer and established himself as number one choice at right back for the Under-21s in Marnick Vermijl’s absence. Despite having just moved to a new country with a new language, he settled in swiftly.

The Uruguayan brings an attacking side to the role like most South Americans and linked up well with Saidy Janko on the right flank last season. The diminutive defender’s season was interrupted when his parent’s were involved in a car accident but once they recovered, he returned to United and took up where he left off.

With Vermijl’s return to United this summer, Varela has shown his versatility by acquitting himself well in the unfamiliar left-back position. With injuries in both full back positions, the opportunity to progress towards the first team may be quite close at hand.

#36 – Marnick Vermijl

The Belgian right back has been one of the most consistent performers at Under-21 level over the last couple of seasons. Vermijl can play in either full-back position and central defence when the need arises. He is superb defensively but is also no slouch going forward.

He spent last season on loan at NEC Nijmegen where he earned plenty of praise for his consistent performances. He also had a chance to show off his attacking qualities with a run of four goals in seven games. In his last season at Under-21 level, his form saw him nominated alongside Adnan Januzaj and Tom Thorpe for the Denzil Haroun Reserve Player of the Year. With injuries to Rafael and Antonio Valencia, this could be the perfect opportunity for Vermijl to stake his claim for the first team.

#39 – Tom Thorpe

Tom Thorpe is probably the first name on the Under-21 team sheet. He is an elegant ball-playing centre back who can also play in central midfield or at full back.

Thorpe is rarely beaten in the air largely due to his excellent reading of the game and positional sense. He’s also comfortable with the ball at his feet and is solid in his distribution whilst not being afraid to get stuck in with tackles. Going forward, Thorpe always looks to start an attack

Having captained the team that won the FA Youth Cup in 2011, Thorpe is currently captain of the reserves. He had a mixed season last year with his performances for the Under-21s being at his usual excellent standard and his time on loan with Birmingham didn’t go as smoothly with his loan spells being cut short due to injury.

With a lot of talk at the moment about the need for greater depth in the centre of defence, it would be appropriate for the consistently outstanding Thorpe to get a chance in the first team squad.

#45 – Davidé Petrucci

Though rated by many, Petrucci has found it very difficult to break into United’s first team due to repeated injuries over the years and that has stagnated his growth. Over the past couple of seasons, the midfielder has had a string of loans at Peterborough United, Royal Antwerp and Charlton Athletic with varying degrees of success.

This is a make or break season for the stylish Italian midfielder who has yet to make an appearance for the first-team. Last season, in a surprising move, he was left out of United’s 25 man squad for the second half of the season even though there were enough slots to include him.

His talent is such that he can be deployed in a number of midfield roles, either defensively or further up the pitch. An excellent set piece technique and a broad range of passing are just some of his attributes.

Although linked with another loan move, it would be good to see him stick around and hopefully get the chance to show Louis Van Gaal what he can do.

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