On Thursday afternoon, it was announced that Manchester United’s Timothy Fosu-Mensah was being sent to Crystal Palace for the season. Everyone at United recognises the Dutchman’s exceptional skill set, and it is clear that the defender has a long-term future at Old Trafford. Despite this, he will ply his trade down south until next season, although it is nothing for fans to be upset about.
With any young, developing player, game time at the very top is essential. Fosu-Mensah has had glimpses of the first team under José Mourinho and Louis van Gaal, yet failed to cement a consistent first-team spot under either manager. At 19 years of age, Fosu-Mensah clearly has talent, bags of it, yet it is this lack of experience that I feel is holding him back from putting his true stamp on Premier League football.
At Crystal Palace, working under a manager that knows him well, Fosu-Mensah is essentially guaranteed this first-team experience, and hopefully on a more consistent basis that he had in Manchester. The London-based outfit are unlikely going to be involved in a relegation scrap this season, meaning United’s youngster will get first-hand experience at a competitive, mid-table Premier League club.
Newly appointed Eagles manager Frank de Boer also knows exactly what his fellow countryman can do on the pitch: “In our system,” he said, “I see him as a right centre-back but he can also play full-back in a 4-3-3.
“In today’s game you need players with strength and pace, and he is a player that can also play in midfield.”
By these quotes alone, it is evident that the United starlet will be key to De Boer’s plans this season. The former Ajax manager knows plenty about the defender as the pair were employed by the Amsterdam club at the same time, before Fosu-Mensah left for United in 2014, and it seems as if De Boer is eager to link up with such a young, yet exceptional talent once again. There is also a Dutch contingent running through the ranks of Crystal Palace, with the likes of Patrick van Aanholt and Jairo Riedewald already at the club to allow the settling in process to be completed as quickly as possible.
Palace’s squad is quite thin defensively, so Fosu-Mensah’s versatility will be a huge help to them if they pick up injuries or suspensions in key areas this season. The Dutchman can perform at right-back, centre-back and defensive-midfield, meaning we could see him play Premier League football in three different positions for a competitive team on a consistent basis. For Mourinho, this is great news, as it allows him to figure out where Fosu-Mensah’s true strengths lie on the pitch, in a match-day situation.
However, I believe the loan has been done for one reason: Mourinho sees Fosu-Mensah as the heir to Antonio Valencia’s right-back position. The Portuguese boss rates Fosu-Mensah as a long-term Manchester United player, and with Valencia ageing, having turned 32 last week, putting Fosu-Mensah into regular first-team football will allow everyone to see whether he has what it takes to be a starter at Old Trafford a year from now.
Personally, having kept a close eye on Fosu-Mensah for the past few seasons, it excites me to think of a player with a set of skills and physique such as his, chisel his game with first-team football, and come back ready to be a starter for one of the world’s elite clubs. Crystal Palace are getting a player who will add not only muscle, but speed and technique to their game, and in return, they will send back to Manchester that same incredible talent, with the added bonus of a consistent playing mentality.
It makes sense to send him out on loan now, as this season is probably Valencia’s last in terms of being able to compete at a high intensity on a weekly basis. He will return ready to *hopefully* slot straight in at right-back, as it would be a crying shame to see a player with such potential not fulfil it.
Usually, I am not a fan of loan moves, but sending Fosu-Mensah to a competitive club in the same league can surely only reap rewards ahead of his return next season. Mourinho has plans for the teenager, and the Dutchman loves Manchester United, so one can only hope that everything works out, ahead of what is set to be a dramatic Premier League season.