One man’s loss is another man’s gain. This age-old proverb rang true on the rain-soaked Benito Villamarín turf on Saturday during Manchester United’s friendly clash against Real Betis.
Erik ten Hag chose to give Teden Mengi another start along side senior defender Victor Lindelof and the 20-year-old coped much better than against Cadiz.
Unfortunately, an untimely hamstring injury meant Mengi had to be stretchered off, not a sight anybody would have wanted to see considering his recent injury problems.
Bennett takes his chance
But that meant Youth Cup-winning captain Rhys Bennett had to be thrown into the mix and the 19-year-old coped admirably.
He was calm with the ball at his feet and looked quite assured despite the opposition being sixth in La Liga and having a striker who won the previous edition of the World Cup.
He hardly looked flustered and was fiery when needed. The Manchester-born defender won two duels, made two vital interceptions as well as completed one tackle.
“I thought he was excellent actually, really, really good,” Tom Heaton told MUTV at the end of the game. “Positionally, he was excellent.
“[There have been] a few changes in terms of how the manager wants his defenders to play, so he’s picked that up really well this week.
“I thought he showed that excellently, especially coming off the bench cold in the first half. I thought Benno had a really good night.”
The brutality & beauty of football.
Teden Mengi stretchered off with what looks to be a serious injury 💔
Rhys Bennett comes on to replace him to make his 1st team debut 🙌
Wishing Teden a speedy recovery. pic.twitter.com/MMJi9z1o7J
— academyarena Utd (@academyarenaUTD) December 10, 2022
Bennett, who recently turned 19, was lifting the FA Youth Cup trophy a couple of months ago. And now, he could be set to be on the bench or even possibly start for United in their EFL Cup clash against Burnley.
Currently, the Red Devils are without their preferred centre-back duo of Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane due to their sides making it to the semifinals of the competition.
There is a good possibility of both making it to the finals, which means Ten Hag will have to prepare for the cup game and possibly even the Premier League fixture against Nottingham Forest without them.
Burnley chance calling
England’s exit in the quarterfinal stage means Harry Maguire might return for the Burnley clash but there is no clarity as of now.
Lindelof is the only fit centre-back at the Dutch boss’ disposal and Bennett might be the one to profit from the World Cup. He has shown the aptitude to be able to cope with senior stars without any fuss.
Bennett, who signed his first professional deal at the start of the year, has been called up to train with the senior team on a number of occasions and Ten Hag has seen a lot of him recently.
The EFL Trophy clashes have also come in handy and he might once again face a tough test when United travel to face Bolton in the Papa John’s Trophy.
That should give the United boss the chance to finalise his plans for the game on December 22. What a story it might turn out to be for the Mancunian, who could not even have dreamt of such a scenario a few weeks back.