Pearson, Thorpe and Janko impress in Manchester United Under-21s victory over Norwich

by Nicolas Berg

Manchester United eased past Norwich City tonight in their opening Under-21 game this season tonight but for those who weren’t able to watch the match, here are four of the main talking points from the game.

Ben Pearson has bags of potential

Pearson (pictured) is clearly not going to let his impressive form of last season fade away. Norwich might very well not be the best side in the division, at least they didn’t look like it tonight, but Pearson absolutely bossed the midfield.

He’s strong, a decent passer and fights for every ball like the league title was at stake. Additionally, he’s forward-minded and composed on the ball. Obviously he benefited from playing with Rothwell as the pairing worked out very well but his talents are not to be looked beyond. He’s a very bright prospect and deserves to have a proper opportunity.

Thorpe deserves first team action

Tyler Blackett has picked up some praise from various people (and fans) after his displays in pre-season but one can wonder why Tom Thorpe hasn’t been handed the same opportunities. He edges out Blackett as he appears as a more of a natural defender. Thorpe is always composed, anticipates the play well and dominates the aerial space in the box.

It might have something to do with Blackett’s ability to carry the ball forward as he is used to from playing out wide. The left and right centre-backs have been doing that all pre-season at first-team level and today for the Under-21s as well and it’s obviously not a coincidence. Blackett copes better with that aspect of the game but generally, Thorpe is the stronger defender of the two so hopefully he gets his chance at the first team within a fair amount of time.

For this particular game, it’s also relevant that Blackett has been around the first team squad all summer and in such terms is a safer choice for the game against Swansea on Saturday. Nonetheless, if Blackett is good enough to have around Jones, Evans and Smalling, Thorpe certainly is good enough as well.

5-2-1-2 improves the passing

People like Louis van Gaal and Johan Cruyff are always talking about angles when setting up a passing game on the chalkboard. This formation with three centre-backs, two wing backs, two centre midfielders and a playmaker behind two strikers does certainly make way for angles to set up a passing game. Particularly in the latter period of the first half, United put this on display and Norwich did basically not see any of possession, as United comfortably passed the ball around.

Janko will surpass Valencia – or has he already done?

The similarities with the two players are obvious for those who have seen them play. Both are strong, quick and fancy the run down the right-hand side of the pitch to put a cross in. However, Valencia has been lacking confidence for two years straight, which has turned him into a fairly poor provider on the right, whether employed as a winger or wing back. He’s losing his mind whilst in defence, doesn’t have a left foot, has no tricks up his sleeve and struggles to put a cross in.

Despite the fact there is a huge gap between the Premier League and the Under-21 league, Janko appears better than Valencia has been over the past couple of seasons. He has got courage and willingness to take on a man, carries the occasional trick and his crossing is good and with Rafael’s injury record, playing Janko as the right wing-back would certainly not be Van Gaal’s worst decision.

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