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Tyler Blackett Has Earned the Right to Stay in Man United's First-Team Squad

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 16:  Tyler Blackett of Manchester United in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Swansea City at Old Trafford on August 16, 2014 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Rob DawsonManchester United CorrespondentAugust 21, 2014

There will have been a sigh of relief from many Manchester United fans when Marcos Rojo's move from Sporting Lisbon was finally confirmed.

He wasn't who they had in mind. But he was, at least, someone. Anyone. A defender to fill the void left by Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.

It was starting to worry many supporters that Louis van Gaal might have to make do with just Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling this season. Three centre-backs isn't enough when you want to play with two at the back. Never mind when you want to play with three.

Tyler Blackett and Michael Keane have been the ones to benefit from Van Gaal's lack of options. 

Themba Hadebe/Associated Press

Both went to the United States in the summer. Both showed promise, if also a bit of inexperience.

He was the one young player to catch Van Gaal's eye in the US. Keane, slightly more experienced after a series of loan spells, started the tour as next in line for a place at centre-half. 

But Blackett benefited from his ability to play on left of a back three, and his comfort on the ball, to end pre-season ahead of Keane in the list of options.

While Keane was being tormented by Gareth Bale against Real Madrid in Michigan, Blackett was quietly efficient in the second half to further push his case.

With injury ruling Evans out of the opening game of the season against Swansea, Blackett was handed his first competitive start. On an otherwise miserable afternoon, the 20-year-old was one of United's better players. 

He'll learn—Van Gaal will make him learn—from his mistake of returning the ball to Wilfried Bony to take a quick free-kick in the build-up to Swansea's winner. Otherwise, he could be proud of his performance on a day when others should not.

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JULY 09: Daryl Janmaat of the Netherlands controls the ball against Marcos Rojo of Argentina during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Semi Final match between the Netherlands and Argentina at Arena de Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014 in Sao Paul
Clive Rose/Getty Images

But with the season only one game old, he finds himself at a crossroads. With Evans and Rojo potentially in the squad to play Sunderland on Sunday, Blackett will slip back down the pecking order.

It's only natural. He's the least experienced of the group, the one with the most to learn. But he should be allowed to learn at Old Trafford. 

There will be a temptation to send him out on loan, to get games rather than stay in the shadows. But he has earned the right to stick around, to train with the first team every day and to get the chance to step in when he's needed.

Paul Sancya/Associated Press

That Blackett was required to play against Swansea might have convinced Van Gaal to move forward with his interest in Rojo, but it shouldn't have been in response to his performance.

With Evans, Jones, Smalling and Rojo ahead of him, and without European football, opportunities will be limited. But there's something to be gained from staying put and learning from Van Gaal. 

The former Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach has a record of putting his faith in young defendersCarles Puyol and Holger Badstuber, to name two.

Blackett will have to wait for his chance to show he's good enough to follow in their footsteps, but he's earned the right to try.

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