Manchester United academy product Cameron Borthwick-Jackson has found himself in limbo recently. On a season long-loan at Wolves, a move which was supposed to help his progression, it has slowly turned into a nightmare.
In stark contrast to this time last year, he has not played a first team game for more than four months. As a result, the defender has twice returned to Old Trafford in recent weeks, to play for their under 23 side.
Luke Shaw had started the season in very impressive form, looking every inch the player United had forked out £30 million for the previous summer. Previous concerns about his fitness seemed to have been forgotten with him bombing up and down the flanks. Unfortunately, he suffered a double break in a Champions League game against PSV Eindhoven. His season was over, and it left manager Louis van Gaal with a big selection headache.
With Daley Blind filling in at centre-back for most of the season, the manager tried various players without success. Marcos Rojo, right-back Matteo Darmian and even left winger Ashley Young were played there, with none of them convincing anybody that they were the long term solution. Step forward Cameron Borthwick-Jackson.
The Manchester born left-back impressed during a spell in early 2016, with the Red Devils suffering an injury crisis in defence. It looked as though he might be a good back up for Shaw when he returned. As well as being an able defender, his explosive pace meant that he was able to get up and down the pitch enough to support the forwards. His drilled method of crossing also proved a useful weapon to United’s attack. In addition to his progression to the first team, he won the reserve team Player of the Year award.
He travelled to Wembley for the F.A. Cup Final. Although he did not the make the 18 man squad for the game itself, he could look back on an impressive debut campaign. With 14 appearances under his belt, it’s probably safe to say he was optimistic about his future at the club. This would have been amplified when José Mourinho replaced van Gaal. One of the Portuguese managers’ first acts at Old Trafford was to tie Borthwick-Jackson to a new contract.
With Luke Shaw reporting fit for pre-season, it didn’t raise too many eyebrows that Borthwick-Jackson went out on loan. It was rather surprising that, given his performances for United, no Premier League side came calling. The defender went, instead, to Molineux, with new Wolves manager Walter Zenga keen to add him to his squad.
Initially Borthwick-Jackson went straight into the side, but Zenga’s time as manager was ended in November following a poor run of results. When Paul Lambert was appointed as his successor, the United loanee was immediately dropped. He hasn’t featured for the first team since then. Lambert originally stated that his exclusion was due to the fact that he wanted more experience. Since then, he has publicly stated that Borthwick-Jackson must work harder to get back into the team.
The situation has reportedly annoyed Mourinho, and reports have emerged that United were considering recalling him permanently. So far, Borthwick-Jackson has returned for two Under 23 matches, and seems unlikely to feature at Molineux again.
Cameron Borthwick-Jackson – The Last Word
It’s a shocking fall from grace for a player who looked to have a big future at Old Trafford twelve months ago. Bringing him back to his parent club might be the best thing for him. Given that Mourinho hasn’t settled on a left-back this season, it might be the one thing that gets his career back on track.
Luke Shaw has had trouble holding down a first team spot this season, and has had to endure several bouts of criticism from his manager. Marcos Rojo has proved he is best served at centre-back, while Daley Blind doesn’t have the pace to make him a natural full-back. Matteo Darmian is a right-back by trade, but he has hardly been a regular under the Portuguese on either side of defence. All of these elements suggest that the Old Trafford left-back spot is very much up for grabs.
Cameron Borthwick-Jackson is young enough to not let the events of this season drag him down. The fact that Mourinho tied him down to a contract so soon after taking the manager’s seat suggests he rates him highly. Recalling the young Mancunian from what has been a disastrous loan spell might suit all parties.