As injuries and ill-fits took their toll on some of England’s top teams over the last seven days, a number of home-based youngsters were given chances to stake claims on places in the not-too-distant future.
Here are five hitherto unknown youngsters who saw their chance and grabbed it last week.
Manchester United’s 19-year-old Northern Ireland Under-21 took over emergency centre-half duties at Old Trafford from the suspended Tyler Blackett and managed something his slightly more senior teammate couldn’t, by being part of a winning team in his first Premier League appearance.
Blackett will be back for the Red Devils’ next match at home to Everton, with at least one of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones also expected to return, but boss Louis van Gaal will be buoyed by the quality coming through the centre-half ranks at United, if McNair is a reliable barometer.
The 20-year-old Nottingham Forest midfielder was by far the most effective and dangerous player on the White Hart Lane pitch prior to Jorge Grants’ 61st-minute Capital One Cup opener for the Tricky Trees at Tottenham, which seemed to wake the hosts out of their stupor.
Spurs came back to grab a flattering 3-1 victory, but Osborn may have been the biggest winner on the night after reclaiming his place in boss Stuart Pearce’s XI for the 0-0 draw at home to Brighton.
Forest have now won six and drawn two of the nine games Osborn has been a part of this term, so the classy Derby native is clearly one to keep an eye on.
The 23-year-old catalyst for Spurs’ comeback against Forest, notching a 25-yard corker seven minutes after coming on as a substitute, had made four low-key appearances for the north Londoners before last week, none of which were in the Premier League.
After playing every minute of the Lilywhites’ impressive 0-0 draw at Arsenal over the weekend, it seems likely that Mason will be an important member of Mauricio Pochettino’s squad all of a sudden.
Another who has benefitted from Van Gaal’s centre-half misery, Thorpe has long been highly thought of at Old Trafford, with many United fans crossing their fingers that the 21-year-old local boy would survive the new gaffer’s clearout at the start of the month.
Thorpe is clearly some way down Van Gaal’s pecking order, but helping to see out what looks an important victory as a late substitute on debut ranks as a dream start nonetheless.
Everton are one injury, or a change of heart over whether Tony Hibbert should start consecutive games, from starting Browning against United, although regular right-back Seamus Coleman is expected to return.
Judging by the 20-year-old’s 17-minute cameo in the Toffees’ 1-1 draw at Anfield, which Phil Jagielka only salvaged at the death, Roberto Martinez will have no qualms about throwing the Liverpudlian into the Old Trafford cauldron from the off if needs be.
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