Brandon Williams
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 10: Brandon Williams of Manchester United during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Brighton & Hove Albion at Old Trafford on November 10, 2019 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images)

Brandon Williams made his first Premier League start in Manchester United’s 3-1 victory over Brighton & Hove Albion at Old Trafford on Sunday. He won many plaudits in his man-of-the-match display. Left-back is a problem area at times, so the rapid progress of Williams will be pleasing for Ole Gunnar Solskjaerto see. It is feasible to see the academy graduate become a regular starter in the Premier League in the next year. 

Brandon Williams the Latest in Manchester United’s Youth Revolution

Just One Part of the Revolution

The full-time appointment of Solskjaer in March has led United to focus on giving younger players a chance. The signings of Aaron Wan Bissaka (21) and Daniel James (22) are showing that this plan is coming into fruition. With Tahith Chong (19), Angel Gomes (19), James Garner (18) and Mason Greenwood (18) also on the cusp of regular first-team football, the youthful revolution is well underway under Solskjaer.

The Norweigan wants to build a young, energetic side that will grow together into a title-winning side over the next three years. Scott McTominay’s stand out performances are a testament to this, with his leadership and passion reflecting these ideas.

The average age of United’s squad yesterday was just 23 years and 350 days – a Premier League low for this season. The introduction of Williams into that side is symbolic as he replaced the 33-year-old Ashley Young, and appeared comfortable filling in.

The transition of Manchester United’s side in the last 12 months from rather experienced to a much younger side is the true progress that fans should emphasise. Juan Mata, Ander Herrera, Chris Smalling and Marouane Fellaini were all former regular starters who have either left or no longer play regularly. Of course, the results are important, but revamping a squad does take time. Having academy graduates such as Brandon Williams to slot into the side certainly helps the transition, whilst also keeping the Old Trafford faithful onside, harbouring memories of the famous Class of ’92.

A Very Promising Debut

Williams never once looked like a Premier League debutant in his performance against Brighton. His positional sense was superb, never allowing his opposition man past him or able to get in behind. That awareness meant he rarely had to make any last-ditch tackles, rather being more meticulous in his defending.

The most impressive part of his performance was his aggression and desire to retrieve possession. His five completed tackles in the game were only bettered by his opposite full-back, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, and he completed one interception. These kind of numbers are very good, especially considering how much United dominated the game.

His defensive confidence is pleasing from a coaching perspective as he appears comfortable in the mens’ game. The high boot on Steven Alzate could have resulted in a red card, but this can be attributed to the occasion. 

Going forward, Williams always supported his winger, Marcus Rashford, allowing him to cut inside. This meant that Rashford was a menace in the box, both scoring and having multiple chances thanks to that added width.

If he can improve on his crossing and dribbling, Williams could become an accomplished full-back in the coming years. In terms of a debut, it was a solid performance that certainly has foundations to build on. 

Impressing the Boss

The performance certainly impressed his manager. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer spoke to the press after the game and in regards to Williams, said, “He was excellent. He has played well before but in his first game at Old Trafford, you don’t know how he is going to react.”

“I told him on Thursday to look forward to this one.”

The Norwegian boss has his young defender in his long term vision. Letting him know of his start in advance allows the youngster to process his emotions ahead of the game.

Ashley Young is returning from suspension soon and Luke Shaw is developing his fitness over the coming weeks. Therefore, Williams cannot be expecting to be starting regularly. Rather, his immediate development is likely to continue in the form of cup games and Europa League ties. This still provides a brilliant platform for building experience for one of the biggest clubs in the world. 

Williams, alongside fellow youth players, will need to be patient to be the first names on the teamsheet, however, with a manager who believes in their talents, are destined to be the future of Manchester United for the next ten years. 

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