One of the most enjoyable parts of watching football, especially for local fans, can be watching a young player emerge from the academy and burst into the first team. There’s a pride we take in seeing our side put trust in a talent they have developed and see them thriving under the professional pressure. We sit with eyes wide imagining future national stars like Wayne Rooney or a potential home town hero/one club man like Steven Gerrard. Those in the stands sit and wax lyrically about how their club has a great future with this young star in their side. Expectation is set at a tender age meaning any dip in form is noticed and criticised, look at Ross Barkley for an example, hopes of future achievements are placed on relatively slender shoulders. Then there are circumstances like when Tyler Blackett breaks into the first team at Manchester United and the sentiment is entirely different.
Tyler Blacketts’s debut season for Manchester United hasn’t lit up the league like many before him. The class of 92’ casts a rather big shadow over all of United’s academy graduates, but many have ultimately showed their quality and had successful careers at Old Trafford. The likes of Darren Fletcher, Wes Brown, John O’Shea established themselves as first team players and collected numerous honours with the club. Players such as Danny Welbeck and Federico Macheda put their names on the map early on with massive goals for the first team. Whereas, Tyler Backett has stumbled, tripped and seemingly done everything he could have to prove he wasn’t Manchester United material.
The young ‘full-back’ was given his chance in the United back four when an injury crisis of epic proportions gave Van Gaal no choice but to entrust a few members of their academy with first team spots. Some flourished. Paddy McNair impressed as a composed and comfortable defender. Meanwhile, Tyler Blackett exposed himself as clumsy and an untrustworthy option.
A master of the failed diagonal ball and heavy first touch, Blackett has made 11 Premier League appearances for the Red Devils this season and left a lot to be desired. In those 11 appearances, United have only ended the game winners on 3 occasions. Blackett himself has accumulated 3 yellow cards, a red card, a penalty and an own goal. Statistics aside it is plain to see that Tyler Blackett is not ready for the Manchester United first team. Perhaps he may be able to develop into a top player. He is only 21 and there is obviously a reason he has made it so far up the United set up. But, unless you have frequently watched him playing for U21s, reserves and other academy sides through his youth career you are in no position to argue that. Based upon his performances for the first team you can only say he is yet to show he is capable of playing at the highest level.
What Blackett hasn’t done is set the league alight and put his stock at the astronomic levels that players before him have. Players like Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkley and Luke Shaw are expected to perform at the highest possible level from 18 till they retire such is their ability. They all made it to the World Cup at their age because they showed us all what they are capable of and that is now the bar they will be measured against for the remainder of their careers. Blackett has not set a bar. Rather than an expectation when he steps onto the pitch there is a deep inhalation of breath as fans begin to worry they will throw the game away now. This all may seem harsh on a 21 year old player, but, it could be a good thing depending on how he reacts to it.
There is no expectation on Tyler Blackett. Therefore he isn’t expected to put in top performances; in fact the opposite is expected. If Blackett has a thick enough skin to take all the ridicule and push through it he can surprise everyone and establish himself as a Premier League footballer like those before him did. Look at the amount of footballers playing across the Premier League and Championship with ties to Manchester United, Blackett can carve out his place amongst those players. “I played for Manchester United” is an impressive pedigree to have and allows most to string a career out at some level.
Having said that my honest opinion is Tyler Blackett is not up to Manchester United standard. His lack of composure coupled with his insistence on attempting Paul Scholes passes has left a lot to be desired in his game. The change in atmosphere when he steps into the United defence is palpable; everyone in the ground is worried. The Arsenal game at the weekend was evidence of that. If you are the opposition you suddenly have a tail up because you feel like there is a weakness to exploit because let’s face it, they have been given ample reason to believe that.
There must be quality there, otherwise Van Gaal wouldn’t have him the first team squad as often as he does. What we need is for Blackett to show us what Van Gaal has seen.
Based on his debut season for Manchester United it is a struggle for us as fans to find any redeeming qualities in Tyler Blackett’s game other than then fact he is still only 21. Anyone can try and argue that fact but they would fail. Its unfortunate that a young player like Tyler Blackett hasn’t been able to impress in a Manchester United jersey this season. Perhaps he will develop and establish himself as a reliable Premier League talent. Perhaps he will shock me and become a Manchester United stalwart, although that would take a massive upturn in confidence and performance for the young player. Tyler Blackett has unfortunately let himself down in his break out into the first team and is undoing a lot of the undoubtedly impressive work he put in at youth level.
There are a lot of players set to be lost in the shuffle at United if they spend this summer like they did last. If that is the case Tyler Blackett might get nowhere near the first team again and based on what he has shown thus far that’s no more than he could expect.