5 Man United Youth Talents Who Could Develop into First-Team Players in 2013-14
With all the excitement of the summer transfer window, it's easy to forget that Manchester United do in fact possess a bevy of young talent who have the potential to achieve greatness in the game.
While a lot of these players are still very much in the fledgling stages of their careers, we have seen before how young footballers—however inexperienced they may be—can break into the United first XI if they show enough potential.
The players in this list will not all necessarily enter into this bracket—rather it is analysing those who at this current point in time are showing the most promise as to a potential entry into the starting lineup.
Before we start, some fans may be shocked to see that 18-year-old Belgian Adnan Januzaj doesn't make the final cut despite what has so far been a promising preseason.
The reason for this is that the midfielder has not been listed in United's 34-man squad for the coming year.
All players on this list are, in fact, from the squad, as they will be the only ones eligible to make first-team appearances this campaign.
For the same reason, United's first goalscorer under David Moyes, Jesse Lingard, also fails to make the cut, as he has also been left out of the first-team picture for the year ahead.
I can assure you that if they had been selected for the squad, their names would definitely have been chosen for these selections.
In this article we'll look at five youngsters set to break through this year. Let's get started.
When Wilfried Zaha was announced as one of United's primary transfer targets for the winter window in December, I was a little surprised.
It's not often that you see a team of the Red Devils' caliber opt to try their luck on a player who has taken the English second division by storm.
Often players of this ilk (David Nugent, Ade Akinbiyi, Frazier Campbell, etc.) all go on to be relative flops in the top league and are therefore usually overlooked by some of the bigger sides.
I think maybe what made all the difference for Zaha was his age.
The 20-year-old has a long road ahead of him, and having already led his former side, Crystal Palace, to promotion through the playoffs last season, he will be thinking that the sky's the limit right now.
Many had suspected that Zaha would be sent out on loan (possibly back to Palace) to gain some top-flight playing experience.
However, with two very impressive stints in preseason matches already under his belt, that might all change.
Zaha has shown immense promise and may even be able to crack the United first XI as early as this year.
Alexander Buttner has had a bit of a topsy-turvy year with Manchester United.
Having made a debut to tell his grandchildren about (playing out of his socks and even scoring in a 4-0 home victory over Wigan Athletic), things haven't exactly gone as smoothly since for the Dutch left-back.
While going forward with the ball, Buttner shows a great deal of skill and flair, but his defensive duties (which after all are supposed to be his main priorities) can sometimes be negatively affected as a result.
However, in time these mistakes can be cut out of his game, and the Dutchman can mount a real challenge for Patrice Evra's position in the first team.
Many fans may be screaming at their computer screens right now about how Buttner is technically not someone one might consider to be part of the "youth" system.
Maybe this is technically true, but the 24-year-old is still a very young player who has been with the club for only a short while.
This past year has hopefully provided Buttner with the experience needed to go out and make a real name for himself in the Old Trafford first XI.
If he wants to do so, however, sloppy errors need to be eradicated from his game.
Angelo Henriquez has become somewhat of a "forgotten son" of Old Trafford.
Having signed toward the end of last year's summer transfer window, Henriquez would be sent out on loan to Wigan Athletic soon afterward.
Making only four senior appearances in the league for the Latics was probably not what United had in mind when they sent their Chilean striker across Greater Manchester, as he struggled to break into the Wigan first team.
Many fans may therefore be wondering how on earth he could potentially make it with United, if he can't even stand out at a team that would eventually get relegated?
Perhaps it is a little too early to be thinking about Henriquez becoming a first-team regular; with the potential departure of Wayne Rooney this summer, it will mean there is one less striker keeping Henriquez from the starting lineup.
That's not to say that Robin van Persie, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck are all that likely to be giving up their spots in the squad any time soon.
It will undoubtedly be a struggle for Henriquez to keep just one of those players out of the side, but it won't be an impossibility.
We have already seen over the past few years how much Welbeck can struggle to get goals at times.
All it would take is a couple of good performances in a tournament like the Capital One Cup—and a few goals—to make David Moyes consider possibly giving the young striker a chance—even as a substitute.
Henriquez really does have to work from the bottom up after a disappointing 2012-13, but if he has the patience and correct mindset, his raw talents mean that he can really do it.
Nick Powell is quite possibly one of the most intimidating 19-year-olds I have ever seen.
If you knew nothing about the midfielder and had to guess his age, you may well opt for a number in the region of that which he wears on shirt: 25.
This maturity in looks translates into his playing ability, as Powell plays with the control and awareness of a much older man.
Having made the giant leap up from League Two to the Premier League (signing from Crewe Alexandra last summer) it was not really a shock that he made few first-team appearances last year in games that mattered.
Similarly to Buttner, Powell debuted and scored in United's 4-0 home victory over Wigan, with a wonder strike that left many fans who had doubts over the then-18-year-old speechless.
Powell may well be the answer to a lot of United fans' prayers in regards to a central-midfield talent.
While he is no Thiago Alcantara, Powell certainly has the ability to go on and make a name for himself as one of the great "big men" midfielders in English football.
Supporters shouldn't expect to see the man from Crewe become a regular member of the starting XI just yet—but I would be surprised if Powell doesn't make at least six or seven appearances (if not more) for United in the league alone this year (whether as a substitute or starter).
Powell is one for the future, but he might also have a part to play in the here and now as well.
Out of all the players on this list, Michael Keane is probably the one that United fans have heard the least about (he's not related to Roy).
That's not to say that some stalwart fans haven't tracked his progress over the past few years—rather that with Keane somewhat silently progressing through the academy, and not making a big-money move to the club, his presence has gone somewhat under the radar.
Michael, whose twin brother Will also plays for United as a striker, is one of those gifted defenders who has the ability to play both as a full-back and a center-back.
This versatility is what gives the 20-year-old the chance to finally break into the United first team after such a lengthy spell with the youth and reserve teams.
With players like Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra slowly beginning to edge toward an age where they will no longer be able to compete at the top of their game, Keane has the potential to fill either of these roles in time.
Unlike some of the players on this list, a loan spell at Leicester City last year with United teammate Jesse Lingard means that Michael has a lot of first-team experience already—albeit with a championship side.
Making 22 appearances for the Foxes (and even scoring a couple of goals), Keane impressed the Midlands club enough to extend his loan period at the King Power Stadium.
Again we would be kidding ourselves to think that Keane will become a consistent first-team player this year, but a handful of solid outings in the league and cup would cement the groundwork for a flourishing career with the Red Devils in the years ahead.
The experience garnered by all of these players this year could be enough to help them achieve to the best of their abilities for United.
In time, all the names listed here can become stalwarts of the club, and this year could be the springboard for many of them.