Tyler Blackett Must Take His Chance at Old Trafford This Season

Chris WinterburnFeatured ColumnistAugust 14, 2014

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 12 Tyler Blackett of Manchester United in action during the Pre Season Friendly match between Manchester United and Valencia at Old Trafford on August 12, 2014 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

As the Guardian's Daniel Taylor reported yesterday, summer signing Luke Shaw looks set for a month out of action courtesy of a hamstring injury picked up in training, leaving Louis van Gaal very short of options at left-back. However, given his outstanding performances in pre-season, Tyler Blackett has done more than enough to earn a chance in the first team.

Blackett, a left-back by trade, has been utilised as a key figure in Van Gaal's central defensive three this summer, and the 20-year-old suitably impressed in matches against AS Roma and Internazionale in what was an unfamiliar role.

With Shaw set to miss the start of the season, there are even more defensive problems for Van Gaal to negotiate following the departure of Patrice Evra and injuries to Jonny Evans, Antonio Valencia and Rafael da Silva, as Van Gaal pointed out to MUTV this week, via ESPN.

Reece James played a full 90 minutes in the mid-week friendly with Valencia but looked to be lacking the necessary levels of match fitness to stake a claim for a starting spot against Swansea City on Saturday lunchtime.

This leaves Blackett as the only other option as a wing-back on the left-flank with Ashley Young expected to continue on the right. Van Gaal will hope that Jonny Evans recovers quickly enough to take part on Saturday. If not, 21-year-old Michael Keane, who according to the Daily Mail's Simon Jones was set for a loan move to Cardiff City earlier this week, will likely get his chance to start at the heart of United's defence.

The need to strengthen United's defensive options in the transfer market is necessary and will in all likelihood happen. However, with just under 24 hours until the final squad lists have to be filed ahead of Saturday's opener, it is unlikely that Van Gaal will have any new faces at his disposal.

Physically, Blackett is at a huge advantage. Standing at six feet in height, Blackett has the dimensions of a centre-half. As we have seen on the summer tour, he also has a very intuitive eye for defending, similar to that of Chris Smalling.

Whilst still rough around the edges, there is a lot of potential there, and given Van Gaal's history of developing young players with talent, he is in the right place.

Blackett's performances have surprised many supporters given how difficult a time the young defender had at Birmingham City in the second half of the 2013-14 campaign. Blackett made just five league appearances at St. Andrews, with many speculating that he could be one of the first out of the door at Old Trafford this summer.

Fortunately, Blackett has grasped Van Gaal's system very quickly indeed and has earned his chance at Old Trafford, but it is a chance he must take, starting on Saturday.

Van Gaal, in his first press conference as United boss, stated how his philosophy on developing young players has always been the same, as reported by the Manchester Evening News:

My method is always the same. I want to look at the players now, the players present.

Of course, I know how the players play. But I don't know the players under my training or coaching.

In the first three or four weeks, I want to see what they can do.

You have to know that I'm not always convinced of the experience of players.

Van Gaal has stuck to his word and given the current United squad almost a month under his guidance to adapt and prove their abilities. Blackett's displays have been one of the highlights. However, he must take the chance he has earned, as they don't come around very often.

Blackett continued his good form from the tour in Tuesday's friendly with Valencia with the BBC's Mike Keegan noting the youngsters impressive display in defence.

United have the finance to make significant moves in the transfer market, and chief executive Ed Woodward confirmed as much in an interview with MUTV earlier this summer, as reported by Bleacher Report's Nick Akerman in July.

With this in mind, it is likely that United will add at least two defenders before the transfer window closes, with Sporting Lisbon's Marcos Rojo and Ajax's Daley Blind the two main targets, according to the Telegraph.

As such opportunities afforded to United's younger players may be few and far between after Saturday's opener with Swansea, and while Blackett is set to be kept at the club and not loaned out again, a good performance on Saturday as a wing-back would do his future prospects under Van Gaal a world of good.

Manchester United supporters may well be frustrated at the lack of activity in the market since the additions of Shaw and Ander Herrera. However, home-grown players are always well-received by fans, and Blackett's confidence following pre-season will be at an all-time high.

He may be moved into a different position within Van Gaal's 3-5-2, but if he impresses on Saturday at a time when United need it most, the young defender could very well cement his spot in United's squad for the foreseeable future.