A loan exit from Manchester United can often make or break a player, and for youngster Teden Mengi the jury is still very much out.
The 19-year-old left United on loan early in the calendar year where he teamed up with club legend Wayne Rooney at Derby County, it would prove to be an invaluable experience as the teenager cut his teeth in Championship football.
Mengi made nine appearances during his initial spell at Pride Park and was back on Rooney’s radar in the summer window, though a proposed deal to return fell through amid the well-documented financial issues at the Rams.
After laying such solid foundations it would have been easy for Mengi to let standards slip when it became clear he would be staying in the United youth ranks for the rest of the calendar year, instead it is credit to the impressive young man he has instead taken it as a change to better himself at every opportunity.
Mengi featured heavily for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s senior side in pre-season but is back in the youth team given the intense competition for places at first-team level.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is back under pressure as Manchester United manager. The Reds’ victory at Tottenham was soon forgotten as they fell to a dire 2-0 defeat in the Manchester derby, and saw the vultures circling around the Norwegian once again.
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However, despite dropping back down to U23s duty he is being spurred on player-coach Paul McShane, who arrived this summer in an innovative player-coaching role to share his expertise on the next generation of United hopefuls.
United had already appointed highly-rated Justin Cochrane as the head of player development and coaching at academy level and he quickly made clear his desire to sign an experienced coach who could also step into training sessions and match scenarios to educate players in real-time situations.
McShane, 35, was the solution. A qualified A-licence coach who has helped the likes of Mengi and defensive partner Bjorn Hardley gain priceless experience playing alongside the former Republic of Ireland international, while also being guided on their development pathways by him away from the pitch.
Martin Svidersky (C), Noam Emeran (L) and Teden Mengi celebrate victory over Bradford This role has been crucial in ensuring Mengi did not stagnate during his time back at the club and already this season he has been a leading light for the U23s, captaining Neil Wood’s side on numerous occasions and forming the spine of a young side brimming with attacking talent.
The highly-rated youngster even trained with the senior England side over the last international break and manager Wood admits he could leave on loan again in the New Year after months of steady progress.
“I’m not sure if the chance was there for him to go out on loan or not,” Wood admitted to reporters when asked about Mengi’s failed summer move.
“But it is one of them where he spent pre-season with the first-team, he didn’t end up going out on loan and he’s come to pick up game time with us.
“I think for him it is just important he keeps getting game time, he keeps himself fresh and by January his pathway might change. He might end up going out on loan which I think would probably be the case.
“It is important he gets his confidence, he gets himself playing right and he is making himself looking a good player like he has done with the U23s.”
McShane’s mentorship has played a key part in keeping Mengi focused since his return to the club but the young centre-back also has a crucial new role of his own after his spell at Derby.
Despite still being a teenager he is idolised by many of his impressionable young teammates and is viewed as the perfect relatable role-model for others who want to follow in his path of senior experience and Football League opportunity.
“I think they work well together,” young midfielder Charlie Savage told MEN Sport of the defensive duo back in September.
“Macca obviously more experienced and Teden’s still experienced playing in the Championship. I think they compliment each other well and knowing those two are behind mopping everything up is a real confidence booster.
Alex Telles, Juan Mata, Anthony Elanga, Will Fish, Teden Mengi and Shola Shoretire in pre-season training “I think Teden and Macca (are both role models) and even Matty (Kovar) he has played League One. I think Teden at Derby last season, a tough league, a tough place to be in, the fact he played well there it only shows how good he is.”
It’s a role which is relished by Mengi but ultimately his main focus is not on helping others but on his own pursuit of a pathway back into the first-team set-up in the years ahead.
He told MEN Sport: “I think for me it is important because I have been here and done it. My third year playing in this competition (EFL Trophy) and third year with the U23s so all the boys know I have done it and I see myself as a character that anyone can come to for advice. If they ever need me I will be there.”
Come the January transfer window, Mengi could very well be on his way out of United on a temporary basis, but in his absence there will be a great chance for another promising youngster to take his place and learn first-hand from McShane.
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