Teden Mengi is one of a number Manchester United academy graduates given a chance in the first team by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, having made his debut in the closing stages of the club’s 2019/20 Europa League last 16 tie against LASK.
Mengi, who was an unused substitute against Astana in Kazakhstan earlier in the competition, played the final few minutes plus stoppage time of the 2-1 win at Old Trafford when he replaced right-back Timothy Fosu-Mensah.
Since then, he's gone away to work on his game, but it was confirmed in March 2021 that he'd signed a new long-term deal at the club - indicating United see a bright future for him. Here, 90min spins you through everything you need to know about him...
Who is Teden Mengi?
While United also scour the world for the best young talent, Mengi was born and raised in Manchester.
He previously captained United at Under-16 level and signed his first professional contract with the club last September - a few months after turning 17.
He played for three different United sides in one season
Mengi has represented United at three different levels this season, beginning the 2019/20 campaign as Under-18 captain.
But, even still only 17 then, he was very quickly promoted to the Under-23 squad and was a regular starter in Premier League 2 from late August.
He also returned to the younger age group occasionally to play in FA Youth Cup games, helping United reach the semi-finals before the competition was indefinitely suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Mengi’s first-team debut made it three different United sides in one season, which is similar to the rapid rise of Marcus Rashford during the 2015/16 campaign.
A debut was expected
Mengi wasn’t simply thrust into the spotlight against LASK, his debut had been coming. He wasn’t deemed ready to play at just 17 when a very young United face Astana in November and stayed on the bench, but he continued his rapid development in the almost nine months that followed.
Mengi had been training permanently with United’s first-team squad since early July when Phil Jones and Axel Tuanzebe were both ruled out until the following season as a result of injury.
A debut at some point before the end of the Europa League season followed a busy conclusion to the 2019/20 domestic campaign and was therefore always likely.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer rates him as a leader
United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gave a glowing review of Mengi following the LASK game and hinted at a positive future for the youngster because of the high hopes club staff have for him.
“He's a leader. A centre-back. Of course, he's one that we believe in. He's the age group of Mason [Greenwood], so they've grown up together as good mates.
"He's strong, quick, good on the ball, so I think we've got a decent player there,” the United boss said at his post-match conference.
Mengi was inspired by Brandon Williams
Mengi himself, although close friends with Greenwood, was particularly inspired by fellow defender Brandon Williams, who made his own similar breakthrough at the start of the 2019/20 season.
Williams was rewarded with a new four-year contract in August 2020 and is tangible proof to other young players in the junior ranks that it is possible to make the step up to senior level and become a regular - if they are prepared to work hard enough. Mengi has seen that and wants it too.
“Especially Brandon, because we both play in defence,” he told MUTV after his debut. “So when I saw him kicking on, it made me even hungrier. It made me think: why can't I do it? It's just the start. It's down to myself now to just keep on kicking on. But yeah, I'm very happy with it.”
Mengi possesses natural maturity
Mengi is a driven young player who has been commended and singled out for praise from an early age because of his impressive maturity.
In early July 2020, a source told The Athletic that Mengi was ‘comfortable’ when he began training with the first-team: “He looked to senior players for guidance and almost matured in the space of a couple of weeks. His appreciation of the game has improved. The focus was on ball retention and pass completion. You have him now driving into the space in midfield.”
Sounding like a archetypal modern centre-back, then...
Under-23 manager Neil Wood also described Mengi as an ‘excellent trainer’ in the same report, adding that his natural confidence allowed him to make the step up from Under-18 level. He has also been described as a ‘perfect professional’ and used the coronavirus lockdown to analyse his own performances with a video specialist, while he also recruited a personal trainer.
Great pace & versatility
Mengi is noted for his pace, an enormous asset against the Premier League’s rapid forwards, while versatility will ensure his first-team opportunities will not be limited to just centre-back.
Such young players are rarely deployed at the heart of defence in the top flight, but pace naturally lends itself to a full-back role. That will give Mengi the first-team exposure and experience he needs to develop his game without the same intense pressure that his natural position would bring.
During 2019/20, he proved his versatility by operating at left-back for a couple of games at Under-23 level, and that may sway United into reinforcing elsewhere - knowing that he has the talent and skillset to more than capably fill in.