The season may have recently drawn to a close leaving football fans around the nation with a two month wait before competitive club matches begin again. However all is not lost. Now June is here so too is the Under 21 European Championship Finals, beginning on the 11th and running through to the 25th.
After finishing runners up in the previous competition, England have a real chance to win it this time round however they won’t have it easy. The tournament is sure to be bursting with talented youngsters who have potential to develop into stars of the future. Included within this group of potential stars of tomorrow are a few United youngsters and speculated new arrivals to watch out for.
David De Gea – The Athletico Madrid number 1 may well be on his way to the Premier League next season, if rumours emanating from Old Trafford turn out to be true, and it’s easy to see why when his past achievements are examined. At only 20 years old De Gea has already won the European Championship at u17 level and has a runners up medal at the World Cup at Under 17’s level. He has also helped his club to Europa League and Super Cup glory in his first two seasons as the first team goalkeeper. With all the speculation linking him with the new Premier League Champions, as a replacement for the retired Edwin Van Der Sar, all eyes should be on De Gea during this tournament.
Phil Jones – Blackburn have had a tough campaign this season, only narrowly avoiding relegation on the final day, however things could have been a lot worse if it wasn’t for their assured 19 year old centre back. With it almost certain that Jones will now be joining United after the tournament, having undergone a medical before flying out to Denmark to join the squad, a glittering career of success may await the youngster if he can fulfil his strong potential in Manchester. Jones seems to be able to read the game like an experienced footballer way beyond his years, accompanied with his strength, pace and tackling ability he has been recognised as having huge potential. Versatility is also a part of his game, with his ability to occupy a holding midfield role when necessary, making him a huge asset to Stuart Pearce’s squad.
Chris Smalling – After an assured first season with the English Champions Smalling has displayed exactly why Ferguson put so much faith in the 21 year old who was playing non-league football just four years ago. His phenomenal rise to the top flight has been highlighted through his ability to step in and perform at the highest club level this season, whenever the injured Rio Ferdinand has been unavailable, allowing Smalling to experience Champions League football as well as vital Premier League ties. With the news emanating from Old Trafford that Phil Jones is set to join him at United the beginnings of a future central defensive partnership could be forged at the Championships in the coming weeks.
Xherdan Shaqiri – This 19 year old attacking midfielder is considered by many in his home country of Switzerland as the future of Swiss football. He was called up to the World Cup finals last summer and scored his first international goal for his country against England in a European Championships qualifying match, receiving praise from both Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard in the process. Having come out of FC Basel’s youth academy, Shaqiri won player of the tournament at the Under 15’s Nike Cup. Despite interests from Europe’s elite clubs he stayed in Switzerland and now holds down a first team squad position at Basel, featuring for them in the Champions League competition this close season. He has been recently linked with a move to the red side of Manchester, which could be simply paper talk, however with the mystery and secretiveness of Ferguson’s transfer policy these days he is still one to watch out for during the coming tournament.
Tom Cleverley – The 21 year old home grown midfielder has made a strong impression at Wigan Athletic this season with his skilful and determined performances, demonstrated by his 25 appearances whilst on loan at the club. He has been loaned out by United in three successive seasons, heading to Watford in 2009 scoring 11 goals in 35 appearances and Leicester City the year before scoring twice with 15 appearances. The youngster has shown a lot of promise gaining healthy first team action over the past seasons and, with the announcement of Paul Scholes’ retirement at the close of the season, perhaps this tournament is a stage set for Cleverley to show Ferguson exactly why he should be given a chance at the top level next season.
Be sure to let us know of any starlets that catch your eye!